Stay with us, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week III-A, 26 April 2020

Acts of the Apostles 2:14.22-33 ><)))*> 1 Peter 1:17-21 ><)))*> Luke 24:13-35

Photo by author, sunset at Laguna de Bay (Los Banõs), February 2020.

I am sure all of us can identify with the two disciples going home to Emmaus on that evening of Easter. And surely, as we accept with a heavy heart the extension of this enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until May 15, we pray like them, saying, “Stay with us, Lord.”

As they approached the village to which they were going, he (Jesus) gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts were burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Luke 24:28-32
From https://www.clarusonline.it/2017/04/29/i-discepoli-di-emmaus-andata-e-ritorno/

Jesus always walking with us, without us recognizing him

Once again we see the presence of darkness in this story of Easter found only in St. Luke’s gospel. And that is the beauty of Easter – like Christmas – showing us the immense love of God for us that he sent us his Son Jesus Christ in the darkest moments of our lives to lead us to light and life.

And it always happens when we least expect it like that Easter evening when Cleopas and his companion were on their way to Emmaus.

Jesus comes to us as a stranger and most of all, joins us in the “wrong direction” to bring us back to the right path we must take especially when things go against our plans and expectations.

Until now, we cannot still believe how these things are happening to us: the lockdown, the sufferings and uncertainty of life when everything is on a “wait-and-see” situation especially in business and education while houses of worship remain closed and mass gatherings prohibited to control the spread of COVID-19.

But, if we look back and see how we are today, do we not also feel our “hearts burning within” that despite all the sickness and deaths almost everywhere, we are still here, alive, forging on in darkness, and most of all, somehow being led by Jesus even though we do not recognize him right away to be always on our side?

Yes, we worry, we ache deep inside but, more than these, we hope, we love, we live because we firmly believe in the Risen Lord present in us, present among us.

Deep in our hearts we experience Jesus with us, feeling with us, listening to our cries and worries just like that Easter evening to Emmaus. As we would say in Filipino, “ah basta!” that means without doubt, we are certain of someone or something from deep within not visibly seen.

“Supper at Emmaus” by renowned painter Caravaggio. See the emotion depicted by Caravaggio with his trademark of masterful play of light and shadows. At the center is the Risen Lord blessing the bread that caught the two disciples who are seated in disbelief, one outstretching his arms and the others pushing back in his chair. The third character in the painting is the innkeeper unaware of the significance of the gesture of Jesus. It was at this instance that the two disciples recognized Christ as the travelling man with them to Emmaus.

Our inner recognition of Christ in the breaking of bread

Notice that in all resurrection stories, the followers of Jesus did not recognize him immediately. There is always that feeling within them, like what we feel when we see somebody and we try to recall where we have met him/her, trying to dig into our memories when and how did we get to know the seemingly not “stranger” before us.

It is a funny feeling that is finally resolved with a very simple memory of an instance long ago or a small detail that leads into an “inner recognition” of the person before us.

This is how the disciples of Jesus recognized him — not through his external appearances but more from within like when Cleopas and his companion invited him into their home in Emmaus or when the seven apostles led by Simon Peter met him by the shore of the lake when no one would dare ask who he is because deep within, they knew it was the Lord (Jn.21;12-14).

And this happens always in the context of a meal, a table fellowship when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday evening before he was arrested to be crucified.

Here we find the mystery of this sign left to us by Jesus to be his very presence among us in his Body and Blood under the perceptible signs of bread and wine as well as the Sacred Scriptures proclaimed in every liturgical gathering: the more we do not see his outward appearances, the more we recognize Jesus!

Every time we celebrate the Mass and listen to the scriptures proclaimed, we realize within us like the people of Jerusalem in the first reading that this Jesus of Nazareth is a true person present in our lives fulfilling his works of salvation despite our sinfulness.

Like some people we meet, we recognize Jesus Christ not with the outward appearances but from within, from what we have experienced beyond explanations that gives us always a sense of awe because as St. Peter tells us in the second reading, “he had ransomed us from our futile conduct with his most precious blood” (1 Pt. 1:18-19) which is affirmed to us in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

The Easter mystery of recognizing Jesus when he vanishes

Every Sunday afternoon since this lockdown began due to COVID-19, we have been bringing the Blessed Sacrament around our Parish to remind the people of Christ’s presence among us.

And every Sunday, I am amazed at the faith of the people who would kneel on the side of the road, totally believing that it is Jesus himself who visits them in the Blessed Sacrament.

The sight is so moving with people from all walks of life bowing their heads or raising their hands, recognizing Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as they pray in silence with others crying. The few motorists passing by stop at the side of the road to see Jesus and be blessed while others get near our truck for a blessing.

Here lies the great mystery of Easter: Jesus need not appear to us in person because as he vanishes in the Blessed Sacrament, that is when we recognize him!

In the most simple gestures of the Mass under the most simple signs of bread and wine, Jesus vanishes from our outward view and through this vanishing our interior or inner recognition opens up that we “see” him in the many instances he had touched us especially in our “heart-breaking” experiences in the past.

We know with certainty that “it is the Lord” – Dominus est – present in every breaking of bread because part of the Easter mystery tells us deep within that it is only in his vanishing that he truly becomes recognizable to us.

What a shame and a tragedy especially in these days of live television or internet Mass when priests do all the gimmicks and antics to wow the people as if they are audience in a show than faithful in a sacred gathering.

May we not forget this mystery of Easter that, the more Jesus vanishes, the more we recognize him because Jesus is more than enough than anybody or anything else especially in the Mass. And when we pray “Stay with us, Lord”, we actually ask for more faith to believe in him to see him in his vanishing. Amen.

A blessed week ahead to everyone! Stay safe, stay in the Lord.

Modern painting of the road to Emmaus.

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