During His life, Jesus taught His followers many things. He even foretold His own death and resurrection in some detail. However, as we heard when we listened to the readings of the Passion and death of the Lord during Holy Week, many of those lessons hadn’t quite been assimilated yet. On Easter Sunday, most of the apostles and disciples of Jesus were not ready to believe that He had risen from the dead. The Lord had to appear to them repeatedly and in different ways, to reinforce through words and actions what He had taught them.
We see a clear case of this in the Gospel reading today. Two of Jesus’ disciples are leaving Jerusalem, confused, discouraged, and disillusioned. They believe that Christ has failed them and that their hope that He would be the Messiah was in vain. Jesus comes out to meet them and to help them to understand that He came to redeem the world through His death on the Cross and then be glorified.
There are really several things going on here. Jesus is opening their minds to understand the Scriptures, enlightening them about the past events of His life. He also reveals His risen presence to them, so they can understand the present: that He is truly alive. The way He does these two things – through a liturgy of the Word while walking on the road, and the Eucharist, or the “breaking of the bread”, at the village – is a lesson in itself, that helps them to grasp their future. They are to encounter Christ and bring Him to others with the Mass at the center and culmination of the life of the Church.
The Mass is a source of nourishment and growth. It is a moment of learning, with the reading and explanation of the Scriptures. The Risen Christ is really, truly present, as He is in Heaven, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the sacrament of the Eucharist. In the Mass, we learn to think and act more like Christ, and we receive Him and are transformed into Him by receiving Holy Communion. Jesus told His apostles at the Last Supper to “do this in memory” of Him, but now on the road to Emmaus, they start to have a deeper understanding of how they will find Christ and bring Him to others through Eucharist.
After Jesus reinforces His teachings by His glorified presence, the Holy Spirit gives the disciples the last push they need at Pentecost. Peter and the other apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit and strengthened by the Eucharist which they had doubtless celebrated more than once with the Risen Lord. We see the result in the first reading today: they go out and preach fearlessly, giving the gift of faith to everyone who is willing to listen.
We have all received the faith from someone who has had the experience of Christ and wanted to share it with us. In many cases, one of the key people in transmitting the faith to each of us was our mother. Today, Mother’s Day, let us all thank our mothers for their role in teaching us to believe in Christ, and for all the countless acts of love that they have done for us throughout our lives. Those of us who still have our mother with us on earth should be sure to visit her if we can, or at least to call or send a card. Those whose mother has already passed away can still honor her memory. All of us can and should offer our prayers for the woman who bore us in her womb and gave us so much of herself.
And let us not forget Mary, Mother of us all, whom we honor in a special way in this month of May. She also has played an important role in our salvation, and we owe her our thanks. Through her intercession, may we also become active apostles of Christ, who – fed by the Word and the Bread of Life – pass on to others the gift of our faith.