Third Sunday of Easter
April 30, 2017   
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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Back in Portugal, before I came to the States, I was the pastor of three parishes. Once when I was receiving people in the office of one of the parishes, a woman came to request the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick for her mother, who was gravely ill. I went immediately to their house. When I started the prayers, the mother was completely unconscious. She was a very old woman, almost a hundred. After the anointing, she started reacting. However, an amazing thing happened when I presented the Blessed Sacrament. She opened her eyes! She seemed to be aware of the real presence of Christ. I gave her communion. After that, she started saying Alleluia, Alleluia, over and over again. When I left the house, she was still saying Alleluia! That night, she went to Heaven, her heart filled with joy. It was one week after Easter. The reception of the Holy Eucharist was her encounter with the Risen One.

The Gospel reading on the Third Sunday of Easter presents the episode with the two disciples in­­­­­­­­ Emmaus. The disciples were despondent. Jesus was not what they had anticipated: “… we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21). They had previously had hope but lost it when Jesus died. Christ’s fate was not according to their preconceptions. The nightmare of the crucifixion had destroyed their beautiful dream.

Many times, disappointment knocks at the door of our lives. We feel disappointed when reality is not what we planned. We need to learn to live with what reality is and not with what we dream about. Sometimes our plans are like soap bubbles, destined to burst.

Jesus drew near the disappointed disciples and walked with them. We tend to think that God is far from us in our defeats. However, it is completely the opposite: Jesus walks with us.

When Jesus walked with the two disciples, they initially failed to recognize him. The bitterness of disappointment often blinds us to Jesus’ presence. Jesus explains the Scriptures to the disciples and gradually helps them understand what happened. He opens their hearts to the meaning of life. At the end, they say: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road?” (Lk 24:32).

“Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over” (Lk 24:29). The disciples requested their mysterious companion to remain with them. With him, it was easier to face the darkness of the approaching night. Jesus gave the impression that he had wanted to continue his journey. However, the disciples stopped him. Thus, Jesus remained with them.

We, too, need to stop Christ. How do we detain Jesus? How can we have him stay at our homes? It is through prayer that we are able to detain this Pilgrim on the Road of Life.

The disciples only understood who this unknown traveler was when they were at table and he made the familiar gesture of breaking the bread. Then their eyes were opened. They realized that Jesus was alive, that he was with them. Suddenly, night became day. Their hearts burst with joy. They did not finish their dinner. They ran to Jerusalem to proclaim the good news, most likely repeating Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

In the sacrament of the Eucharist, we really can encounter the Risen One. In the memory of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, we find the reason for our hope; we find the companion who walks with us. Let us ask for the grace to recognize that Jesus is always present among us.  Amen.

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