Luke Chapter 22-24
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now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.
I offer a cordial and fraternal greeting to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches present. The exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price.
With this gesture, through them, I would like to reach all those Christians living in the Holy Land, in Syria and in the entire East, and obtain for them the gift of peace and concord.
The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ is at the centre, Christ is the centre. Christ is the centre of creation, Christ is the centre of his people and Christ is the centre of history.
1. The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the centre of all things, he is the beginning: Jesus Christ, the Lord. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled (cf. Col 1:12-20). He is the Lord of creation, he is the Lord of reconciliation.
This image enables to see that Jesus is the centre of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. And so our thoughts will be Christian thoughts, thoughts of Christ. Our works will be Christian works, works of Christ; and our words will be Christian words, words of Christ. But when this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.
2. Besides being the centre of creation and the centre of reconciliation, Christ is the centre of the people of God. Today, he is here in our midst. He is here right now in his word, and he will be here on the altar, alive and present amid us, his people. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-3). In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them.
Christ, the descendant of King David, is really the “brother” around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one, one people, united with him and sharing a single journey, a single destiny. Only in him, in him as the centre, do we receive our identity as a people.
3. Finally, Christ is the centre of the history of humanity and also the centre of the history of every individual. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the centre, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel.
Whereas all the others treat Jesus with disdain – “If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, save yourself by coming down from the cross!” – the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clings to the crucified Jesus and begs him: “Remember me, when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). Jesus promises him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43), in his kingdom. Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard. Today we can all think of our own history, our own journey. Each of us has his or her own history: we think of our mistakes, our sins, our good times and our bleak times. We would do well, each one of us, on this day, to think about our own personal history, to look at Jesus and to keep telling him, sincerely and quietly: “Remember me, Lord, now that you are in your kingdom! Jesus, remember me, because I want to be good, but I just don’t have the strength: I am a sinner, I am a sinner. But remember me, Jesus! You can remember me because you are at the centre, you are truly in your kingdom!” How beautiful this is! Let us all do this today, each one of us in his or her own heart, again and again. “Remember me, Lord, you who are at the centre, you who are in your kingdom”.
Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more, he is so generous, he always gives more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his kingdom!
Let us ask the Lord to remember us, in the certainty that by his mercy we will be able to share his glory in paradise. Let us go forward together on this road!
1. In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises. Dear brothers and sisters, we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us! The Lord is like that.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.
2. But let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; Jesus is the everlasting “today” of God. This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you dear sister, for you dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive! Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.
3. There is one last little element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel for this Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus has risen, he is alive! But faced with empty tomb and the two men in brilliant clothes, their first reaction is one of fear: “they were terrified and bowed their faced to the ground”, Saint Luke tells us – they didn’t even have courage to look. But when they hear the message of the Resurrection, they accept it in faith. And the two men in dazzling clothes tell them something of crucial importance: remember. “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee… And they remembered his words” (Lk 24:6,8). This is the invitation to remember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.
On this radiant night, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who treasured all these events in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51) and ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection. May he open us to the newness that transforms, to the beautiful surprises of God. May he make us men and women capable of remembering all that he has done in our own lives and in the history of our world. May he help us to feel his presence as the one who is alive and at work in our midst. And may he teach us each day, dear brothers and sisters, not to look among the dead for the Living One. Amen.
“Peter ran to the tomb” (Lk 24:12). What thoughts crossed Peter’s mind and stirred his heart as he ran to the tomb? The Gospel tells us that the eleven, including Peter, had not believed the testimony of the women, their Easter proclamation. Quite the contrary, “these words seemed to them an idle tale” (v. 11). Thus there was doubt in Peter’s heart, together with many other worries: sadness at the death of the beloved Master and disillusionment for having denied him three times during his Passion.
There is, however, something which signals a change in him: after listening to the women and refusing to believe them, “Peter rose” (v. 12). He did not remain sedentary, in thought; he did not stay at home as the others did. He did not succumb to the sombre atmosphere of those days, nor was he overwhelmed by his doubts. He was not consumed by remorse, fear or the continuous gossip that leads nowhere. He was looking for Jesus, not himself. He preferred the path of encounter and trust. And so, he got up, just as he was, and ran towards the tomb from where he would return “amazed” (v. 12). This marked the beginning of Peter’s resurrection, the resurrection of his heart. Without giving in to sadness or darkness, he made room for hope: he allowed the light of God to enter into his heart, without smothering it.
The women too, who had gone out early in the morning to perform a work of mercy, taking the perfumed ointments to the tomb, had the same experience. They were “frightened and bowed their faces”, and yet they were deeply affected by the words of the angel: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (v. 5).
We, like Peter and the women, cannot discover life by being sad, bereft of hope. Let us not stay imprisoned within ourselves, but let us break open our sealed tombs to the Lord – each of us knows what they are – so that he may enter and grant us life. Let us give him the stones of our rancour and the boulders of our past, those heavy burdens of our weaknesses and falls. Christ wants to come and take us by the hand to bring us out of our anguish. This is the first stone to be moved aside this night: the lack of hope which imprisons us within ourselves. May the Lord free us from this trap, from being Christians without hope, who live as if the Lord were not risen, as if our problems were the centre of our lives.
We see and will continue to see problems both within and without. They will always be there. But tonight it is important to shed the light of the Risen Lord upon our problems, and in a certain sense, to “evangelize” them. To evangelize our problems. Let us not allow darkness and fear to distract us and control us; we must cry out to them: the Lord “is not here, but has risen!” (v. 6). He is our greatest joy; he is always at our side and will never let us down.
This is the foundation of our hope, which is not mere optimism, nor a psychological attitude or desire to be courageous. Christian hope is a gift that God gives us if we come out of ourselves and open our hearts to him. This hope does not disappoint us because the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). The Paraclete does not make everything look appealing. He does not remove evil with a magic wand. But he pours into us the vitality of life, which is not the absence of problems, but the certainty of being loved and always forgiven by Christ, who for us has conquered sin, conquered death and conquered fear. Today is the celebration of our hope, the celebration of this truth: nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:39).
The Lord is alive and wants to be sought among the living. After having found him, each person is sent out by him to announce the Easter message, to awaken and resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who struggle to find meaning in life. There is so necessary today. However, we must not proclaim ourselves. Rather, as joyful servants of hope, we must announce the Risen One by our lives and by our love; otherwise we will be only an international organization full of followers and good rules, yet incapable of offering the hope for which the world longs.
How can we strengthen our hope? The liturgy of this night offers some guidance. It teaches us to remember the works of God. The readings describe God’s faithfulness, the history of his love towards us. The living word of God is able to involve us in this history of love, nourishing our hope and renewing our joy. The Gospel also reminds us of this: in order to kindle hope in the hearts of the women, the angel tells them: “Remember what [Jesus] told you” (v. 6). Remember the words of Jesus, remember all that he has done in our lives. Let us not forget his words and his works, otherwise we will lose hope and become “hopeless” Christians. Let us instead remember the Lord, his goodness and his life-giving words which have touched us. Let us remember them and make them ours, to be sentinels of the morning who know how to help others see the signs of the Risen Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is risen! And we have the possibility of opening our hearts and receiving his gift of hope. Let us open our hearts to hope and go forth. May the memory of his works and his words be the bright star which directs our steps in the ways of faith towards that Easter that will have no end.
The women bring spices to the tomb, but they fear that their journey is in vain, since a large stone bars the entrance to the sepulchre. The journey of those women is also our own journey; it resembles the journey of salvation that we have made this evening. At times, it seems that everything comes up against a stone: the beauty of creation against the tragedy of sin; liberation from slavery against infidelity to the covenant; the promises of the prophets against the listless indifference of the people. So too, in the history of the Church and in our own personal history. It seems that the steps we take never take us to the goal. We can be tempted to think that dashed hope is the bleak law of life.
Today however we see that our journey is not in vain; it does not come up against a tombstone. A single phrase astounds the woman and changes history: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). Why do you think that everything is hopeless, that no one can take away your own tombstones? Why do you give into resignation and failure? Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside. God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin, fear, worldliness. Human history does not end before a tombstone, because today it encounters the “living stone” (cf. 1 Pet 2:4), the risen Jesus. We, as Church, are built on him, and, even when we grow disheartened and tempted to judge everything in the light of our failures, he comes to make all things new, to overturn our every disappointment. Each of us is called tonight to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls back from our heart the heaviest of stones. So let us first ask: What is the stone that I need to remove, what is its name?
Often what blocks hope is the stone of discouragement. Once we start thinking that everything is going badly and that things can’t get worse, we lose heart and come to believe that death is stronger than life. We become cynical, negative and despondent. Stone upon stone, we build within ourselves a monument to our own dissatisfaction: the sepulchre of hope. Life becomes a succession of complaints and we grow sick in spirit. A kind of tomb psychology takes over: everything ends there, with no hope of emerging alive. But at that moment, we hear once more the insistent question of Easter: Why do you seek the living among the dead? The Lord is not to be found in resignation. He is risen; he is not there. Don’t seek him where you will never find him: he is not the God of the dead but of the living (cf. Mk 22:32). Do not bury hope!
There is another stone that often seals the heart shut: the stone of sin. Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then leaves behind only solitude and death. Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why not make up your mind to abandon that sin which, like a stone before the entrance to your heart, keeps God’s light from entering in? Why not prefer Jesus, the true light (cf. Jn1:9), to the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure? Why not tell the empty things of this world that you no longer live for them, but for the Lord of life?
Let us return to the women who went to Jesus’ tomb. They halted in amazement before the stone that was taken away. Seeing the angels, they stood there, the Gospel tells us, “frightened, and bowed their faces to the ground” (Lk 24:5). They did not have the courage to look up. How often do we do the same thing? We prefer to remain huddled within our shortcomings, cowering in our fears. It is odd, but why do we do this? Not infrequently because, glum and closed up within ourselves, we feel in control, for it is easier to remain alone in the darkness of our heart than to open ourselves to the Lord. Yet only he can raise us up. A poet once wrote: “We never know how high we are. Till we are called to rise” (E. Dickinson). The Lord calls us to get up, to rise at his word, to look up and to realize that we were made for heaven, not for earth, for the heights of life and not for the depths of death: Why do you seek the living among the dead?
God asks us to view life as he views it, for in each of us he never ceases to see an irrepressible kernel of beauty. In sin, he sees sons and daughters to be restored; in death, brothers and sisters to be reborn; in desolation, hearts to be revived. Do not fear, then: the Lord loves your life, even when you are afraid to look at it and take it in hand. In Easter he shows you how much he loves that life: even to the point of living it completely, experiencing anguish, abandonment, death and hell, in order to emerge triumphant to tell you: “You are not alone; put your trust in me!”.
Jesus is a specialist at turning our deaths into life, our mourning into dancing (cf. Ps 30:11). With him, we too can experience a Pasch, that is, a Passover– from self-centredness to communion, from desolation to consolation, from fear to confidence. Let us not keep our faces bowed to the ground in fear, but raise our eyes to the risen Jesus. His gaze fills us with hope, for it tells us that we are loved unfailingly, and that however much we make a mess of things, his love remains unchanged. This is the one, non-negotiable certitude we have in life: his love does not change. Let us ask ourselves: In my life, where am I looking? Am I gazing at graveyards, or looking for the Living One?
Why do you seek the living among the dead? The women hear the words of the angels, who go on to say: “Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee” (Lk 24:6). Those woman had lost hope, because they could not recall the words of Jesus, his call that took place in Galilee. Having lost the living memory of Jesus, they kept looking at the tomb. Faith always needs to go back to Galilee, to reawaken its first love for Jesus and his call: to remember him, to turn back to him with all our mind and all our heart. To return to a lively love of the Lord is essential. Otherwise, ours is a “museum” faith, not an Easter faith. Jesus is not a personage from the past; he is a person living today. We do not know him from history books; we encounter him in life. Today, let us remember how Jesus first called us, how he overcame our darkness, our resistance, our sins, and how he touched our hearts with his word.
The women, remembering Jesus, left the tomb. Easter teaches us that believers do not linger at graveyards, for they are called to go forth to meet the Living One. Let us ask ourselves : In my life, where am I going? Sometimes we go only in the direction of our problems, of which there are plenty, and go to the Lord only for help. But then, it is our own needs, not Jesus, to guide our steps. We keep seeking the Living One among the dead. Or again, how many times, once we have encountered the Lord, do we return to the dead, digging up regrets, reproaches, hurts and dissatisfactions, without letting the Risen One change us?
Dear brothers and sisters: let us put the Living One at the centre of our lives. Let us ask for the grace not to be carried by the current, the sea of our problems; the grace not to run aground on the shoals of sin or crash on the reefs of discouragement and fear. Let us seek him in all things and above all things. With him, we will rise again.
Complaining “is bad”, because “it does away with hope”. Resist entering “this game of living on complaint”. The Lord’s presence was made visible “when he broke the bread”. Then, the disciples could see “the wounds”, and then “he disappeared”. We must have hope and trust in God who “always moves with us along our path”, even at the darkest hour. “We may be sure”, we may be sure that the Lord never abandons us.... Let us not seek refuge in complaint. It harms our heart.
In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles we heard the voice of Peter, who with power announces the Resurrection of Jesus. Peter is a witness to hope in Christ. And in the Second Reading it is Peter again who confirms the faithful in faith in Christ, writing: “Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead... so that your faith and hope are in God” (Pet 1:21). Peter is the community’s firm reference point, because he is founded on the Rock that is Christ. As was John Paul II, a true stone anchored to the great Rock.
One week after the Canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II, we are gathered in this church of the Poles in Rome to thank the Lord for the gift of the holy Bishop of Rome who was a son of your nation. This church to which he came more than 80 times! He always came here, at various times in his life and in the life of Poland. In times of sadness and dejection, when all seemed lost, he did not lose hope, because his faith and hope were fixed in God (cf. 1 Pet 1:21). And thus he was a foundation stone, a rock for this community that prays here, that listens to the Word here, prepares for the Sacraments and administers them, welcomes those in need, sings and celebrates, and from here returns to the outskirts of Rome....
Brothers and sisters, you belong to a people that has been severely tried throughout its history. The Polish people know well that in order to enter into glory one must pass through the Passion and the Cross (cf. Lk 24:26). And it knows it not because it has studied it, it knows it because it has lived it. St John Paul II, as a worthy son of his earthly fatherland, followed this path. He followed it in an exemplary way, having received from God to be totally stripped of self. That is why his “flesh will dwell in hope” (cf. Acts 2:26; Ps 19:9).
And us? Are we ready to follow this road?
You, dear brethren, who today form the Polish Christian community in Rome, do you want to follow this road?
St Peter, also through the voice of John Paul II, tells you: Conduct yourselves with fear of God throughout the time of your exile here below (cf. 1 Pet 1:17). It is true, we are wayfarers, but we are not wanderers! On a journey, but we know where we are going! Wanderers do not know where. We are pilgrims, but not vagabonds — as St John Paul II would say.
At the outset the two disciples of Emmaus were wanderers, they did not know where they would end up, but on their return, not so! On their return they were witnesses of the hope that is Christ! For they had met Him, the Risen Wayfarer. This Jesus, he is the Risen Wayfarer who walks with us. Jesus is here today, he is among us. He is here in his Word, he is here on the altar, he walks with us, he is the Risen Wayfarer.
We too can become “risen wayfarers”, if his Word warms our hearts, and his Eucharist opens our eyes to faith and nourishes us with hope and charity. We too can walk beside our brothers and sisters who are downcast and in despair, and warm their hearts with the Gospel, and break with them the bread of brotherhood.
May St John Paul II help us to be “risen wayfarers”. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
The Gospel from this Sunday, which is the Third Sunday of Easter, is that of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35). They were two of Jesus’ disciples who, after his death and the Sabbath was past, leave Jerusalem and return, sad and dejected, to their village which was named Emmaus. Along the way the Risen Jesus draws near to them, but they do not recognize him. Seeing them so sad, he first helps them to understand that the Passion and death of the Messiah were foreseen in the plan of God and announced in the Sacred Scriptures: and thus he rekindled a fire of hope in their hearts.
At that point, the two disciples experienced an extraordinary attraction to the mysterious man, and they invited him to stay with them that evening. Jesus accepted and went into the house with them. When, at table, he blessed the bread and broke it, they recognized him, but he vanished out of their sight, leaving them full of wonder. After being enlightened by the Word, they had recognized the Risen Jesus in the breaking of the bread, a new sign of his presence. And immediately they felt the need to go back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples about their experience, that they had met the living Jesus and recognized him in the act of the breaking of the bread.
The road to Emmaus thus becomes a symbol of our journey of faith: the Scriptures and the Eucharist are the indispensable elements for encountering the Lord. We too often go to Sunday Mass with our worries, difficulties and disappointments.... Life sometimes wounds us and we go away feeling sad, towards our “Emmaus”, turning our backs on God’s plan. We distance ourselves from God. But the Liturgy of the Word welcomes us: Jesus explains the Scriptures to us and rekindles in our hearts the warmth of faith and hope, and in Communion he gives us strength. The Word of God, the Eucharist. Read a passage of the Gospel every day. Remember it well: read a passage from the Gospel every day, and on Sundays go to Communion, to receive Jesus. This is what happened to the disciples of Emmaus: they received the Word; they shared the breaking of bread and from feeling sad and defeated they became joyful. Dear brothers and sisters, the Word of God and the Eucharist fill us with joy always. Remember it well! When you are sad, take up the Word of God. When you are down, take up the Word of God and go to Sunday Mass and receive Communion, to participate in the mystery of Jesus. The Word of God, the Eucharist: they fill us with joy.
Through the intercession of Most Holy Mary, let us pray that every Christian, in reliving the experience of the disciples of Emmaus, especially at Sunday Mass, may rediscover the grace of the transforming encounter with the Lord, with the Risen Lord, who is with us always. There is always a Word of God that gives us guidance after we slip; and through our weariness and disappointments there is always a Bread that is broken that keeps us going on the journey.
Let us pray today, in this Mass, for all the people who suffer sadness, because they are alone or because they do not know what future awaits them or because they cannot provide for their family because they have no money, because they have no work. So many people who suffer sadness. We pray for them today.
So many times we have heard that Christianity is not just a doctrine, or a way of behaving, it is not a culture. Yes, it is all that, but more important and first of all, it is an encounter. A person is a Christian because he or she has met Jesus, he or she has allowed themselves to meet with him.
This passage of Luke's Gospel tells us about an encounter, how to understand well how the Lord acts, and how our way of acting is. We were born with a seed of restlessness. God wanted it like this: an anxiety to find fullness, an anxiety to find God. So often even without knowing that we have this concern our hearts are restless, our hearts thirsty: thirsty for an encounter with God. It looks for it many times on the wrong road: it gets lost, then returns, it looks for him . On the other hand, God thirsts to meet, so much so that he sent Jesus to meet us, to come and meet this concern.
How does Jesus act? In this passage of the Gospel (cf. Luke 24: 13-35) we see that he respects, respects our own situation, does not move forward. Only sometimes, with the stubborn, we think of Paul don't we? When he is thrown off the horse. But he usually goes slowly, respectful of our readiness. He's the Lord of patience. How much patience the Lord has with each of us! The Lord walks beside us.
As we have seen here with these two disciples, he listen to our concerns – he knows them! – and at some point he tells us something. The Lord likes to hear how we speak, to understand us well and to give the right answer to that concern. The Lord does not accelerate the pace, he always goes at our pace, often slow, but his patience is like this.
There is an ancient rule of pilgrims that says that the real pilgrim must go at the pace of the slowest person. And Jesus is capable of this, he does it, he does not accelerate, he waits for us to take the first step. And when the time comes, he asks us the question. In this case it is clear: "But what are you discussing?" (see v.17), he becomes ignorant to make us talk. He likes us to talk. He likes to hear us, he likes to talk like that. To listen to us and respond, he makes us speak, as if he was ignorant, but with so much respect. And then he answers, he explains, to the necessary extent. Here he tells us : ""Was it not necessary that Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them the passages in all the scriptures that were about himself." He explains and clarifies.
I confess that I am curious to know how Jesus explained in order to do the same. It was a beautiful catechesis. And then the same Jesus who accompanies us, who draws near to us, pretends to go further to see the extent of our disquiet: "No, come, come, stay with us a little" (v. 29). So the encounter happens. But the encounter is not only the moment of breaking bread, here, but it is the entire journey. We meet Jesus in the darkness of our doubts. Even in the ugly doubt of our sins, He is there to help us, in our anxieties. He's always with us.
The Lord accompanies us because he wants to meet us. That is why we say that the core of Christianity is an encounter: it is the encounter with Jesus. Why are you a Christian? Why are you a Christian? And many people don't know what to say. Some say it's by tradition but others do not know what to say: because they met Jesus, but they did not realize that it was an encounter with Jesus. Jesus always seeks us. All the time. And we have our own concern. When our concern meets Jesus, there the life of grace begins, the life of fullness, the life of the Christian journey.
May the Lord grant us all this grace to meet Jesus every day, to know, to know that he walks with us in all our moments. He's our pilgrimage companion.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today's Gospel, set on the day of the Passover, tells the story of the two disciples of Emmaus (cf. Luke 24: 13-35). It's a story that starts and ends on the move. There is, in fact the outbound journey of the disciples who, sad about the end of the story of Jesus, leave Jerusalem and return home, to Emmaus, walking for about eleven kilometres. It is a journey that takes place during the day, with much of it downhill. And there is the return journey: another eleven kilometres, but made at nightfall, with part of the way uphill after the fatigue of the outward journey and all day. Two trips: one easy during the day and the other tiring at night. Yet the first takes place in sadness, the second in joy. In the first there is the Lord who walks by their side, but they do not recognize him; in the second they no longer see him, but they feel him near them. In the first they are despondent and hopeless; in the second they run to bring the good news of the encounter with the Risen Lord to others .
The two different paths of those early disciples tell us, the disciples of Jesus today, that in life we have two opposite directions in front of us: there is the path of those who, like those two at the beginning, allow themselves to be paralyzed by the disappointments of life and go ahead sadly; and there is the path of those who do not put themselves and their problems first, but Jesus who visits us, and the brothers who await his visit, that is, the brothers and sisters who wait for us to take care of them. Here is the turning point: to stop orbiting around one's self, the disappointments of the past, unrealized ideals, so many bad things that have happened in one's life. So many times we are led to orbit around ourselves. Leave that and move forward looking at the greatest and truest reality of life: Jesus is alive, Jesus loves me. This is the greatest reality. And I can do something for others. It's a beautiful reality, positive, sunny, beautiful!
The U-turn is this: to move from thoughts about myself to the reality of my God; pass – with another pun – from "ifs" to "yes". From "if" to "yes." What does it mean? "If he had freed us, if God had listened to me, if life had gone the way I wanted, if I had this and that..." in a tone of complaint. This "if" does not help, it is not fruitful, it does not help us or others. Here our ifs are similar to those of the two disciples. But they pass to yes: "yes, the Lord is alive, he walks with us. Yes, now, not tomorrow, we are on our way to announce it." "Yes, I can do this so that people are happier, because people will get better, to help so many people. Yes, yes, I can." From if to yes, from complaint to joy and peace, because when we complain, we are not joyful; we are in a grey area, that grey air of sadness. And that doesn't even help us grow well. From if to yes, from complaint to the joy of service.
This change of pace, from self to God, from if to yes, how did that happen with the disciples? Meeting Jesus: the two of Emmaus first open their hearts to him; then they listen to him explain the scriptures; so they invite him home. These are three steps that we too can take in our homes: first, open our heart to Jesus, entrust him with the burdens, the hardships, the disappointments of life, entrust him with the "ifs"; and then, second step, listen to Jesus, take t he Gospel in hand, read this passage today, chapter twenty-four of Luke's Gospel; thirdly, pray to Jesus, in the same words as those disciples: "Lord, "stay with us" (v. 29). Lord, stay with me. Lord, stay with all of us, because we need you to find our way. And without you there is night.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are always on our way in life. And we become what we're going towards. Let us choose God's way, not that of the self; the way of yes, not the way of the if. We will find that there is no unexpected events, there is no uphill path, there is no night that cannot be faced with Jesus. May Our Lady Mother of the journey, who, by receiving the Word, has made her entire life a "yes" to God, show us the way.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
On this Third Sunday of Easter, we return to Jerusalem, in the Cenacle, as guided by the two disciples of Emmaus, who had listened with great emotion to Jesus’ words along the way and then had recognized him “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35). Now, in the Cenacle, the Risen Christ presents himself in the midst of the group of disciples and greets: “Peace to you!” (v. 36). But they are frightened and believe “that they saw a spirit” (v. 37), as the Gospel says. Then Jesus shows them the wounds in his body and says: “See my hands and my feet” – the wounds – “that it is I myself; handle me” (v. 39). And to convince them, he asks for food and eats it before their astonished eyes (cf. vv. 41-42).
There is a detail here, in this description. The Gospel says that the Apostles “they still disbelieved for joy”. The joy they had was such that they could not believe that this was true. And a second detail: they were bewildered, astonished; astonished because the encounter with God always leads you to astonishment: it goes beyond enthusiasm, beyond joy; it is another experience. And they were joyful, but a joy that made them think: no, this cannot be true!... It is the astonishment of God’s presence. Do not forget this frame of mind, which is so beautiful.
Three very concrete verbs characterize this Gospel passage. In a certain sense, they reflect our individual and community life: to look, to touch and to eat. Three actions that can give joy from a true encounter with the living Jesus.
To look. “See my hands and my feet”, Jesus says. To look is not only to see, it is more; it also involves intention, will. For this reason, it is one of the verbs of love. A mother and father look at their child; lovers gaze at each other; a good doctor looks at the patient carefully…. Looking is a first step against indifference, against the temptation to look the other way before the difficulties and sufferings of others. To look. Do I see or look at Jesus?
The second verb is to touch. By inviting the disciples to touch him, to verify that he is not a ghost – touch me! – Jesus indicates to them and to us that the relationship with Him and with our brothers and sisters cannot remain “at a distance”. Christianity does not exist at a distance; Christianity does not exist only at the level of looking. Love requires looking and it also requires closeness; it requires contact, the sharing of life. The Good Samaritan did not limit himself to looking at that man whom he found half dead along the road: he stopped, he bent down, he treated his wounds, he touched him, he loaded him on his mount and took him to the inn. And it is the same with Jesus himself: loving him means entering into a communion of life, a communion with Him.
And thus, we come to the third verb, to eat, which clearly expresses our humanity in its most natural poverty, that is, our need to nourish ourselves in order to live. But eating, when we do so together, among family or friends, also becomes an expression of love, an expression of communion, of celebration…. How often the Gospels present Jesus to us who experiences this convivial dimension! Even as the Risen One, with his disciples. To the point that the Eucharistic Banquet has become the emblematic sign of the Christian community. Eating together the Body of Christ: this is the core of Christian life.
Brothers and sisters, this Gospel passage tells us that Jesus is not a “ghost”, but a living Person; that when Jesus draws near to us he fills us with joy, to the point of disbelief, and he leaves us bewildered, with that astonishment that only God’s presence gives, because Jesus is a living Person.
Being Christian is not first of all a doctrine or a moral ideal; it is a living relationship with Him, with the Risen Lord: we look at him, we touch him, we are nourished by Him and, transformed by his Love, we look at, touch and nourish others as brothers and sisters. May the Virgin Mary help us to live this experience of grace.