This is the Mass
This Sunday’s Gospel gives the very well-known story of Christ appearing to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. We read the same Gospel on Wednesday of Easter Week and I wrote a letter to you about it which is on the parish website. But there is another aspect to this story which can easily go un-noticed. It gives us the Mass in seminal form.
Towards the end of this Gospel, Cleopas and the other disciple ask the Lord, whom they have still not recognised, to stay with them. Our Lord agrees, and as they sit down to eat, He re-enacts exactly what He had done a few days earlier at the Last Supper, and they recognised Him in ‘the breaking of the bread’. But then He disappeared. Of course, Our Lord is going to stay with them but in a different way – not in His earthly body but under the appearance of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist. His resurrected and glorified body is no longer limited to being in one place at a time, neither is it bound by space or time. So now He can be in Rome, London, Paris, Jerusalem, Nottingham and Loughborough all at the same time.
It’s interesting to note in this Gospel how first of all when the disciples are troubled, Our Lord reads the Scriptures (the Old Testament) to them and explains how He is the fulfilment of them. Many throughout the ages have claimed to being sent by God, but only Christ has proved His authenticity through the Old Testament prophecies He fulfils. Then after He has explained the Scriptures to them, “while He was with them at the table, He took the bread and said the blessing. Then He broke it, and gave it to them.” This is the Mass! The Liturgy of the Word or the Scriptures is followed by the Liturgy of the Eucharist where we have the Offertory, the Eucharistic Prayer and then Holy Communion. So every time we participate in Mass we are really participating in the same experience the disciples had in Emmaus. And the reason that the two disciples recognised JESUS at ‘the breaking of the bread’ is because they had been prepared for it through the reading of the Scriptures and then having it explained to them. This gave them the faith to recognise Him in the Holy Eucharist, and it filled them with such joy they went off and told the others all about it. What does the priest or deacon say at the end of Mass? “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” That’s what they did, and it’s also our commission, to go out and proclaim the joy of the Gospel to the world.
Let us continue to try and to do so even in these times of adversity, but you’re already doing a great job in many different ways. And may our being deprived of the Mass and the Sacraments at this time bring us to an even deeper appreciation of these mysteries, so as we come to see even more clearly our risen Lord is with us always, and especially in the Liturgy and the Sacraments. Let us storm Heaven with our prayers that our churches will be open soon.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC