A Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter
Sunday, April 23, 2023
Holy Ghost Church – 5:00 Mass
Acts 2:14, 22-33; Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35
In today’s gospel, after his resurrection, Jesus joins two of his disciples on the road as they make the long seven mile walk from Jerusalem to their home village of Emmaus.
When Jesus asks them what they are discussing, they reply “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” Can’t you just picture the twinkling in His eyes when He asks: “What sort of things?”
Jesus appears as a stranger to Cleopas and the other disciple. As someone they did not know and who, perhaps, they may have perceived to be quite different from them. Maybe they thought he was a Gentile or a Samaritan. Maybe they just thought he was an oddball for not knowing about the crucifixion that had just taken place. They certainly thought he should have known about it. Everyone knew about it!
Maybe, just maybe, they even hoped Jesus would be on his way, rather than walking along with them. How often do we discount or attempt to distance ourselves from those we think are different from us? How often do we not want to be bothered by strangers who seem to be a little odd?
An important lesson for us in today’s gospel passage is that Jesus often comes to us in hidden ways. He hides in those people we may try to avoid. He is present to us in the poor, the homeless, and the panhandler. So often we fail to see Jesus in those who are in need of our unconditional love and compassion, especially those who may smell bad, have rotten teeth and wear tattered clothing.
Earlier today my wife Christine, myself and a few other parishioners here this evening joined about 30 other volunteers from several parishes around town to serve a hearty lunch to over 200 of Holy Ghost’s neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. We’ve done this every month for over 7 years now at KARM, just a mile or so from here. Our ministry is called the Knoxville Bridge Ministry, a ministry of the Diocese of Knoxville.
Each month prior to serving the meal I remind our volunteers that when they serve our guests, they are serving Christ. I assure you that over the years many of our volunteers have had encounters with the Lord, present in these homeless souls. You are all invited to join us and meet him for yourself in his poor.
There’s a beautiful movie I highly recommend called “Same Kind of Different As Me” It’s the true story of an arrogant, wealthy art dealer named Ron Hall who was convinced by his wife Debbie to look past himself and help her feed the homeless at a mission in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. You can stream it on Amazon Prime Video.
At the mission Hall encounters a homeless man named Denver Moore who showed him what is really important in life.
Moore said two things to Hall in the movie which have stuck with Christine and I. When Hall asked Moore what it was like to be homeless he replied, “Let me tell you something Mr. Ron – whether we is rich or whether we is poor or whether we is something in between, we are all homeless. We are just working our way home.”
Moore also said to Hall, “You never know whose eyes God is watchin you through. It might not be your teacher, your preacher, or your Sunday school teacher. More likely it’s gon’ be that bum on the street.”
So true. What if Jesus is watching you through that bum on the street? What does he see? Does see a compassionate Christian? Hall certainly encountered Jesus in this homeless man, and it changed his life.
At the conclusion of the disciples’ journey with Jesus on the road to Emmaus in today’s Gospel, their eyes are opened to who this stranger is when he joins them for supper. When Jesus blesses and breaks the bread they see him for who he really is. He is at that moment made present to them in the Eucharist.
Dear friends in Christ, Jesus is present to us at every Mass, in his people gathered here, in his Word that is proclaimed and taught, and in the Eucharist we will soon receive, in which he is fully present: body, blood, soul and divinity.
If you struggle to believe this, for heaven’s sake beg God for the faith to believe it! Ask him to open your eyes to his real presence…to allow you to see Jesus with the eyes of faith as you gaze upon him truly present in the host you will soon receive.
Finally, what did Cleopas and the other disciple do after they encountered Jesus in the Eucharist? They ran back seven miles in the dark to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples that they had seen the Lord! They were so excited to have encountered him that they just couldn’t keep the experience to themselves.
How about us? Do we do the same? Are we excited to share our faith with others whenever the opportunity presents itself, or do we take our faith for granted and treat our encounter with Jesus here at Mass as just another item to be checked off our to-do list?
Do we share what God has done for us with others? How he has opened our minds to his presence and worked all kinds of small miracles for us throughout our lives? Do we tell our stories to those who need to hear them? If not, why not? Could it be that we take our salvation for granted?
I’d like you to remember three things from today’s homily:
1) Jesus often appears to us in disguise, especially in the disguise of those whom we think are very different from us. Look into the eyes of your brothers and sisters in need and see Jesus present there. Serve him by serving them.
2) When Father elevates the host today in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, ask God for the grace to see Jesus, Jesus who is truly and fully present to us in this precious sacrament. To know that he is offering himself to us to strengthen us and transform us into his likeness.
3) Examine your conscience to see if your reaction to just having received the King of the Universe, fully present in the Eucharist, is worthy of such an honor. Will you leave here and go about your normal business as if nothing special really happened? Or will you enthusiastically consider what Our Lord is asking you to do after having encountered him in this way? What are you going to do to better live and share your faith?