Catholic liturgies are scriptural

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:14, 22-33

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: "You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. For David says of him: I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence. "My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day. But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption. God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured him forth, as you see and hear."

1 Peter 1:17-21

Beloved: If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one's works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb. He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Luke 24:13-35

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?" They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?" And he replied to them, "What sort of things?" They said to him, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see." And he said to them, "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?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. 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. Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together 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.

While the Judean town of Emmaus cannot be located with certainty, Luke’s message in today’s gospel reading is clear. Three distinct themes emerge from this dramatic episode with nuances and steps for a liturgical worship.

First, the interpretation of Scriptures. For Luke, interpreting Scriptures is as important as reading it. In the story, Jesus interprets Scriptures to the two disciples, “Was not our heart burning within us while he was speaking on the road and explaining to us the scriptures?” (Lk 24:32). He does the same to the eleven in Jerusalem when He appears to them (Lk 24:45). Philip is directed to explain to the Ethiopian eunuch who fails to understand the passage from Isaiah (Acts 8:26-36).

Second, the Breaking of the Bread. Inasmuch as Jesus is recognized in the Scripture, He is foremost recognized in the Eucharist (a term used by early Christian for the breaking of the bread) (Lk 24:31,35, CCC1373). The mystical overtone of the meal with the two disciples reminds us of the Lord’s Last Supper with the apostles. Jesus’ actions of taking the bread, giving thanks, breaking and giving it to the disciples bear a strong Eucharistic accent (rf CCC 1329).

Third, the sharing of the experience with others. Imagine, had the two disciples kept the incident to themselves and continued their way, they would not have known that Jesus also appears to Peter and would have missed the second encounter with Him (Lk 24:36). By sharing their story, they bear witness of Jesus’ resurrection together with the other disciples.

Our liturgical celebration of the Eucharist follows the above structure of Jesus’ Last Supper “which has been preserved throughout the centuries” (CCC1346).We know that Scriptures speak about Jesus and find fulfillment in Him (rf Lk 24:44). Through the reading of Scriptures, a portion of Jesus’ life is relived. In the Liturgy, the sacred word is expounded, elucidated and applied during the homily that follows the readings. It is not so much a matter of historical knowledge but of faith building and penetration. In the Liturgy, the Eucharistic actions together with the Eucharistic Prayer of thanksgiving and consecration constitute the summit of our worship and celebration. Not only is this a memorial, but it is also a sacrifice that “re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross” (CCC1366). The Liturgy concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful to the world with the same intention: to be witnesses of our faith, to let God’s light shine through our lives and to transform the world around us.

From the beginning, the Eucharistic assembly of the faithful has stayed the same in its form and order “despite the great diversity of times and liturgies” (CCC1356). Let us remember that each time when we participate in the Liturgy, we are the two disciples whose experience on the road to Emmaus has been concretized and eternalized through the ministry of the Church.

Posted: April 30, 2017

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

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