April 18, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Wednesday in the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 3:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 24:13-35)
In the Gospel reading, as we hear this wonderful story about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we, first of all, have to ask ourselves a couple of questions. What were these two men doing, going to Emmaus? They admitted that these women had come and reported that Jesus was raised from the dead; that the tomb was empty; that they saw angels who said that the Lord was raised; even that some of the men from their company went to the tomb and found it just as they had said. Still, off they went, walking along the road to Emmaus.
One has to ask, "Why were they doing this? What was so important that they had to take off when they had heard about the Resurrection?" But it shows, once again, the lack of faith; and more than that, their lack of understanding that they did not get it. Even when Jesus went through every single passage of Scripture that referred to Him, they still did not get it. Now, that is seven miles of walking. Stop and think how long it would take to go from Jerusalem to Emmaus, walking along at 1 to 2 miles per hour; this is several hours that Jesus is going through all of the Scripture passages. They recognized that their hearts were burning, but their minds did not understand. Even though they heard all the Scriptures, what they had in their mind was a different idea of a Messiah. So, even at the end, they could say, "We were hoping he was the one. All those passages are true; but, apparently, it wasn’t him." They misunderstood them. What is important for us to see is that even though the heart burns when it hears about Jesus in the Scripture, it is only fulfilled when we receive Him in Holy Communion. They recognized Him, not in the Scriptures, but only in the breaking of the bread. Their eyes were opened when Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. Only in the Eucharist did they recognize their Blessed Lord.
Today, we have many Christians in the exact same situation - One hundred thousand denominations calling themselves Christian, all based on the same book; and all misunderstanding what it says, understanding great parts of it, certainly, but not all of it. Their hearts burn as they desire to be in union with Our Lord. And they hope He is going to fulfill everything He said. Yet, they miss the most important element: the Lord is right there, He is fulfilling everything He said. But they do not want to believe it. Their minds have been turned away, but their hearts burn.
So too, our hearts need to burn. They need to burn with desire for our Lord; they need to burn with love for Our Lord. What a blessing is ours: the minds also understand and we have complete fulfillment of what the Lord has taught us. We have Our Lord present in the Eucharist, the Glorified Christ. He is still here fulfilling His promise that He would not leave us orphans; fulfilling everything that He told us: We would have to eat His body and drink His blood if we want to have eternal life. It is not merely in an earthly way that He is present to us. In the Eucharist, He is present in His glorified state, seated at the right hand of the Father in the glory of Heaven, and worshiped by the angels. That is the manner He is present in the Eucharist. We have the incredible privilege, the unspeakable privilege, of being one with Him in the Blessed Sacrament, the desire of every true Christian in the world.
Yet, it is what most do not see and do not accept. So, with them, our hearts need to burn. But, unlike them, our hearts have the joy of the fulfillment of that longing, of that burning desire to be in union with Jesus. Not only the hope that one day He will fulfill the promises and bring us to Heaven, but that we already have union with Him on earth, in our heart, in the Blessed Sacrament. All of this is ours. If we can understand that He has fulfilled these promises, then we have every reason to be confident that He will fulfill His final promise: to bring us to union with Him in Heaven, to bring us to the eternal banquet which we already celebrate here because the banquet is the Lamb, Jesus Christ, upon Whom we will feast for all eternity. Our hearts will no longer burn with desire because they will know only fulfillment. But the fulfillment has already begun! God, in His mercy, has given to each one of us the great privilege of being able to understand, of having the eyes of our hearts open so that we already accept and know Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.