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Do We Recognize Jesus? Homily for April 2018 Holy Hour

Homily for April 2018 Holy Hour
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 my homily this past Sunday I referred to the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. This is the story that we hear in tonight’s gospel.

Each of the four gospels include stories of Jesus appearing to his disciples after his Resurrection. Even The Acts of the Apostles speaks of Jesus appearing to his disciples and gives us the story of Jesus’ Ascension.

In some of the stories the disciples recognize Jesus but think he must be a ghost. As I have said in my homilies at Mass, we need to remember that Jesus is the first to rise in the resurrection so this is all new to them.

Knowing that they don’t understand what resurrection is, Jesus’ invites them to see his wounds from his Crucifixion, even to touch so that they know he is not just a ghost but has a body.

Resurrection is a key theme of our faith in general and a focal point of what Easter means for us. However, rather than focus on what “resurrection” is tonight, I want to look at the question of recognizing Jesus.

In this gospel passage on the road to Emmaus, the two disciples did not recognize Jesus as he walked with them. Likewise, in other gospel stories like when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene near the tomb, she did not recognize him.

Why not?

I think part of the answer lies in that they weren’t expecting to see him. When he appears to Mary Magdalene near the tomb, she assumes that he must be the gardener because who else would be there. Remember, no one had risen before. The two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus assume that he is just an ordinary person.

Actually, this gospel passage says, without saying why, that they were prevented from recognizing him. We might wonder why. I think the answer centers in the fact that Jesus first needs to open the scriptures for them to understand what has happened before they can understand “resurrection.”

As with so many topics of faith, we can look at “recognizing” Jesus on two levels. The first is recognizing Jesus as a human being. Here, we might think about how when Jesus goes to his hometown shortly after beginning his ministry, they recognize him as the son of Joseph and Mary, the boy they watched grow up. They know the human Jesus. Seeing only the human side of Jesus, they block out the possibility of Jesus being something more than the boy they watched grow up.

During his public ministry before his Crucifixion, people came to recognize Jesus for the miracles he did but many missed how these miracles point to Jesus as more than just the descendant of King David that would set upon David’s throne.

They had their expectation of a messiah. As the two disciples said on the road to Emmaus, they “were hoping he would be the one to redeem Israel.” Of course, we know that Jesus does “redeem Israel” but not from the Romans as they expected. Rather, Jesus redeems us from our sins.

It was those who failed to recognize Jesus in his public ministry that get him arrested and crucified. Of course, we know that Jesus had to die for our sins. His life was not taken from him. He freely gave it over, but, still they did not recognize him for who he truly is.

Do we recognize Jesus?

First, we need to realize that Jesus does not come to appear to us as he did to the first disciples after his Resurrection but that does not mean he is not with us.

Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us. Just as Jesus walked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus so he walks with us. We can’t see him with human eyes but he is with us.

I spoke on Sunday about how we need to have regular contact with Jesus to recognize his presence in our struggles.

It is difficult for us to be aware of Jesus’ presence. There are too many distractions in our world today for one. For the times when God does something good for us, are we even open to seeing his presence or do we think we do it on our own? Do we give God credit for what he does for us?

Going back to the story of the two disciples walking with Jesus, when did they recognize him?

It was not while walking on the road. Even as Jesus spoke their hearts were burning from his words but they did not recognize him.

It was only when they sat down to eat with Jesus and he broke the bread as he did at the Last Supper that they recognized him.

The “breaking of bread” is, of course, a reference to the Eucharist. Tonight, we are not here to celebrate Mass but we are here to see Jesus in the Eucharist in the consecrated host that is in our monstrance on the altar.

Many people do not recognize Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist. They can only see with their human eyes. All they can see is a piece of bread, a small one at that.

Our brains get in the way. The bread does not look any different after the consecration than it did before. It doesn’t taste any different but it is Jesus.

I have heard that scientists have done tests before and after the consecration trying to find a change but they can’t and they won’t. We know it is Jesus but not based on science but on Jesus’ own words at the Last Supper when he says this is my body.

Our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is not based on science. It is based on faith, faith that is a gift from God.

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