April 24, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

Let Jesus comfort and challenge us during this difficult time

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

Christian life is a journey, and from the moment of our baptism all of us are “on the way” toward a better life. This new life begins here on Earth and, we firmly believe, culminates in heaven where God dwells with all his angels and saints.

What makes our Christian journey uniquely different is the fact that we are given many opportunities to encounter our Lord Jesus Christ along the way. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35), we are often blind to Jesus’ presence among us. We don’t recognize him—usually because we are too preoccupied with ourselves. But if we allow him, Jesus will break through our indifference and our hardened hearts to show us that he is with us every step of the way.

As we read in the Gospel for next Sunday, the Third Sunday of Easter, the disciples who encountered Jesus on their way out of Jerusalem were disillusioned and had given up hope. They were aware that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was found to be empty, but they did not know that their Lord had risen from the dead. Jesus chastises them saying, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:25-26) If they had been paying closer attention on the many occasions when their Master taught them that the Scriptures were to be fulfilled in him, they would not have been so slow to believe!

Pope Francis tells us that Jesus is the face of God. When we encounter him, our eyes are opened and we see clearly despite our blindness. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were given a great gift. As St. Luke writes, “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” (Lk 24:30-31). To see Jesus, we must be ready and our hearts must be open to the miracle of his presence—in the Scriptures (God’s Word) and in the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist).

Word and sacrament are the gifts we have been given that allow us to encounter Jesus and, so, to see the face of God. But we may not hoard these gifts, keeping them to ourselves. We are commanded by the risen Lord to go out into the world as evangelizers, as missionary disciples who share generously with others the precious gifts we have received from our Lord.

Their encounter with Jesus resulted in a profound change in the behavior of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Instead of fleeing from Jerusalem discouraged and without hope, their hearts were now on fire. As St. Luke says:

“So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
‘The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!’
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread”
(Lk 24:33-35).

The two disciples have become evangelists. They return to Jerusalem and share their experience with the rest of the disciples. Their eyes have been opened, and they have seen their risen Lord!

The journey each of us must travel inevitably includes moments of doubt and disillusionment. This is especially true in times of crisis when our longing for Jesus, the face of God, is especially intense. During these times when we experience intensely our inability to receive our Lord in the Eucharist, it’s important to remember where we last encountered Jesus. Most likely, we last recognized him in one of three places: 1) in prayer and meditation on God’s Word; 2) in the sacraments; or 3) in selfless service to “one of the least of these,” Christ’s brothers and sisters.

If we return to these places of encounter frequently, conscious that the graces we received in our baptism and confirmation have linked us together in the spiritual communion of the Eucharist, chances are we will recognize Jesus and acknowledge him as our close companion and our journey’s goal. If we allow him to come close to us, Jesus will break through our indifference and our hardness of heart. He will challenge, comfort and guide us as we travel along the difficult roads of our life’s journey.

May our hearts burn within us as we long to encounter Jesus in the Scriptures and in the breaking of the bread. †

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