Hello?  Is anybody in there?

Homily for April 30, 2017 (3rd Sunday of Easter)
Acts 2:14, 22-43; Psalm 16 (v.v.); 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35

He grew up in the Bronx, NY, where the skies were clouded by air pollution by day and light pollution by night.  Looking up, he counted the stars that he could see—12 in all.  Then, at the age of 9, he visited the Hayden Planetarium.  He couldn’t believe it:  there weren’t just a dozen stars in the sky but thousands! At first he thought it might be a hoax; but he returned to the planetarium.  His parents bought him books on space in the bargain bin at the bookstore.  He bought a telescope.  His wonder and excitement soon overcame his skepticism and what he thought he knew.

“From age 11,” he said, “I had an answer to that annoying question adults always ask kids: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’”  Neil de Grasse Tyson, one of our country’s best-known scientists and the author and host of the revived Cosmos series on PBS, knew that he wanted to be an astrophysicist.

Like others in the hours and days immediately following Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples who walked along the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize him at first.  Their vision was clouded by their own preoccupations, hopes and expectations.  They saw Jesus as “a prophet mighty in deed and word” whom they hoped “would be the one to redeem Israel.”  They couldn’t see that he was far more and that God’s plan for the Messiah was different than theirs.  It was only after he opened the scriptures to them and sat down with them, “took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to them” that they realized that the one with whom they had been walking was also the one in whom they had placed their hope.  They knew they wanted to be his disciples.

Every time that we celebrate the Eucharist—particularly on Sunday, the first day of the week and our “little Easter”—we have the opportunity to experience what the disciples did on the road to Emmaus.  Jesus joins us in the midst of our own journeys of life.  Through the ministries of the priest (and deacon) as well as our lectors and Eucharistic ministers, Jesus opens the Scriptures for us and breaks the bread.

Sometimes, however, like those on the road to Emmaus we fail to recognize him.  Our visions are clouded by our own preoccupations, hopes and expectations.   None of us is immune.  Especially because the Mass is so familiar to us, we can easily “zone out” at different points and forget where we are—and Who is with us.  (I have to confess that sometimes when I’m participating in morning Mass at our friary my mind wanders—usually to the list of things that I have to do that day.  It feels as if I’ve placed myself in a booth of distraction and Jesus is knocking and saying, “Hello?  Is anybody in there?”)

But when we’re paying attention and we’re present to Jesus just as he is present to us, our hearts can be stirred and our eyes opened.  We recognize him in the breaking of the bread and are ready to go out and proclaim in word and action that he is truly risen. +