7 May 2011

Emmaus

The Emmaus Experience and Eucharistic celebration
Sr Mary Louise O'Rourke PDDM

Gospel text: The road to Emmaus - Lk 24:13-33

The Gospel story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus has a lot to offer us as a means for understanding what the Eucharist is about. The Emmaus story is the story of every person who walks the walk of life. It goes like this, in a nutshell. Two disciples are returning to Emmaus, away from the scene at Jerusalem and Calvary where their hopes had been dashed after Jesus had been crucified and the obvious reaction is to pretend that it never happened. It is a day of mixed emotions, unexplainable experiences overshadowed with thickened doubts. Jesus, the One who said ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’ is dead and everything else around them has shattered like glass.

As Jesus joins them on the journey they begin to tell their story. The journey continues and slowly there is a healing in recounting their disappointment. As they arrive at their destination, they invite him to stay with them. They have felt the comfort of His presence. They say. “Stay with us Lord, because it is almost evening….the day is almost over”. Many of us were afraid of the dark when we were younger, maybe we still are. The disciples are fearful to encounter darkness so they cry out ‘Stay with us’, ‘abide with us’.

Jesus tells us that He is the Vine and we are the branches and that we cannot live apart from Him.  “If you abide in me and I in you, you may ask what you will and it will be done for you.” Jesus wants to live in us. He wants to meet us in word, prayer and sacrament. He wants to give Himself to us in the Eucharist. He is waiting for our invitation: “Stay with me Lord”, “ I want to stay with you! ““Come into my life”, “transform me with your life”, “let your words and actions replace my words and actions”.

God loved the world so much that He wanted Jesus to be always with us in the Eucharist, both celebrated during the Mass and adored during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. St. Padre Pio from his strong Eucharistic life can tell us: “A thousand years of enjoying human glory is not worth even an hour spent communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament”.
The disciple’s hearts were filled with burning. They cry: “were not our hearts yearning within us…:” We ask ourselves: “What makes me burn? What do I yearn for? Is it to know and love Jesus with my whole heart?
After the disciples had experience the power of Jesus’ presence, they couldn’t keep it to themselves. They rushed back to Jerusalem, full of joy.  Joy and Eucharist cannot be separated: because joy is the echo of God’s presence in us. The task of prayer before the Eucharist is to make space for joy in us and so we can communicate this to others. Recalling the concluding words of the Eucharistic Celebration: “go in peace to love and serve the Lord”, here we see that in celebrating the Eucharist together we are sent out to proclaim the message of good news which we have heard.

In the Scriptures Jesus asks his disciples “can you keep watch with me for one hour?” Over this weekend we will time to keep watch with Him. Eucharistic Adoration is our response to this invitation. You simple respond by being there: talking to Him, making acts of faith, hope, love: Jesus I love you, Jesus I trust in you, Jesus, I believe in you.  It is here sitting at the feet of Jesus that we learn the value of prayer, of silence, of outpouring, of being able to appreciate his promise that Jesus is with us to the end of time. St. John Vianney explained Adoration in this way: “I look at Him and He looks at me”. It is a mutual gaze of love.

So we see, the Eucharist is Celebrated- Lived- Adored:

Celebrations are always joyful and as we mentioned already, joy and Eucharist go together. Mother Teresa had a simple way in arriving at true happiness and joyful. For her, joy is about JESUS, OTHERS, YOU .Discovering that joy lives in the moments of each day is a signpost to a Eucharistic life.

The Eucharist is a lived experience and it is lived – Just as Jesus’ body was broken and shared for us, so too are we called to be “bread broken and shared”. In the Eucharistic Prayer during Mass each time we are reminded of this when the priest says the words “He took the bread, broke it, blessed it and said…”

If we do not become broken we cannot be shared and given to our brothers and sisters. This is the only way in which we can explain suffering in the world.  Bread is broken into small pieces and reminds us of our sense of solidarity with the poor and the suffering of our society. When we participate in the celebration of the Eucharist, we celebrate united with the whole universal Church in heaven and on earth.

When Jesus breaks the bread for the disciples of Emmaus, their eyes are opened, they recognise Him, they understand that it is really Him. Our eyes too need to be opened, above all the eyes of faith which allow us to believe that this little piece of bread is the real Body of Jesus. Jesus is here before us. It is hard to make this leap of faith, pray, pray and pray for the grace to recognise Jesus present in the Eucharist, to be able to contemplate his beauty and know that this is the living bread come down from Heaven. Each one of us is like this bread and has been ‘blessed, broken and given” to others.

The Eucharist is adored- the prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

How do we pray before the Blessed Sacrament: Our Founder Blessed James Alberione used to explain it as a visit to a close friend. In fact as sisters in our order, as part of our prayer life we have an hour and a half of prayer for the needs of the world. The purpose of every Eucharistic Visit is to anchor our life in Jesus Christ, that is, to live in Jesus, through Jesus, and with Jesus.

Our Founder Blessed James Alberione gave us a prayer which explains what Adoration is: 
“It is the creature who meets with his Creator”
the disciple before his Master and Teacher,
the one who is sick before the Doctor of souls,
the one who is poor who appeals to the one who is Richness,
the one who thirsts coming to the Font,
the blind seeking the Light,
the friend who goes to the True Friend,
the lost sheep sought out by the Shepherd,
the nothing who finds all,

the youth who finds life’s meaning.”
 (Blessed James Alberione -adapted)
However, God allows us the freedom to choose or to ignore, to listen or be ‘selectively deaf’ to his invitation. This was exactly the dynamic he used with the lads on the way to Emmaus. He comes beside them and walks with them. This is what he does with us. He knocks on the door of our hearts and invites us to follow Him.

So we pray:

As the evening of life falls and our lazy eyes fail to recognize You,

You come and walk beside us on the road of our modern-day Emmaus.
 Open our eyes so as to encounter You in the Bread of Life,
broken and given for us.
Burn within our hearts as we unworthily cry out
‘Stay with us, Lord”.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.


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Other reflections of the story of Emmaus from:

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