Matthew 28:1-10, Easter Vigil
“Stay with us, Lord, for it is almost evening.” This was the insistent invitation that the two disciples journeying to Emmaus on the evening of that very first Easter addressed to their companion who had talked to them in a way that their hearts were on fire. Weighed down with sadness, they never imagined that this stranger was none other than their Master, risen from the dead. There, on the way, the unknown companion had explained the Scriptures and shed light into the darkness that clouded their spirit. “Stay with us!” they pleaded. And he agreed. Soon afterwards, Jesus’ face would disappear, yet the Master would stay with them, hidden in the breaking of the bread which had opened their eyes to recognize him.
Amid our questions and difficulties, and even our bitter disappointments, the divine companion continues to walk at our side, opening us the Scriptures and leading us to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of God. And he continues to break bread for us, every time we celebrate the Eucharist, as we do right now.
When we begin to think, we realize that the Gospel we just heard is our story. It is us on the road of life, on our journey of faith. Our faith tells us that Jesus is risen and with us, but so often we do not recognize him, especially when disappointments cloud our minds and hearts.
Every time we attend Mass, we hear the Scripture proclaimed – but often we hear them but they don’t speak to us. Why? Because we are often like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, confused and preoccupied with the bad things that happened to us in daily life.
As they thought the Lord was dead, even though some women had told them that the tomb was empty, we often think we know better than the Church teaches that Jesus is alive and among us.
It is beautiful to see how patient the Lord was with his two disciples – how patient he is with us when we doubt his presence in the midst of our problems and miseries. I saw a photo in a German newspaper shortly after a tsunami hit South Asia; it showed the closed doors of a Church and somebody had written in big letters on the doors: “Where were you, God?”
Jesus knows how difficult it is to experience God’s presence when disaster strikes, when a loved one dies of cancer or in an accident. We easily ask the question: Where are you God? – even though Scripture and Church tell us that Jesus is alive. And Jesus is patient with us. For had he not on Thursday evening also cried out to God and asked for help? Had he not on Friday cried out: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
He knows how we feel at times. And as he takes us as he took the two disappointed disciples and led them step by step to see the light, so he does to us.
When the two disciples asked Jesus to stay “with” them, he responded by giving them a much greater gift: through the sacrament of the Eucharist he found a way to stay not only “with” them but to stay “in” them. receiving the Eucharist means entering into a profound communion with he Risen Lord. “Abide in me, and I in you” he had told his disciples. It is good to remember on this Easter day we celebrate during a Eucharistic Year that one of the first things the Risen Lord did was, to give himself in the broken bread to the two discouraged disciples to stay “in” them.
After the two disciples had recognized the Lord they “Set out immediately” in order to report what they had seen and heard. Once we have truly met the Risen Lord in Scripture – the first part of the Mass – and in the Eucharist – the second part of the Mass – we cannot keep to ourselves the joy we have experienced. Our encounter with the Risen Lord, constantly intensified and deepened in the Eucharist, issues in the Church and every Christian an urgent call to testify. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor 11:26).
The dismissal at the end of every Mass is a charge given to us faithful, inviting us to work for the spread of the Gospel and bringing Christian values into our society.
Easter, therefore, is not about Easter bunnies and Easter eggs. The real joy of Easter should come from our encounter with the Risen Lord whom we know to be present in the Scriptures and especially in the Eucharist.
I cannot forget meeting quite some time ago an elderly lady. Her children are all in the States, her husband died a few months ago. I said, “You must feel lonely, ‘di ba?” But then she smiled and said: “Since my husband died, I go more often to a prayer room and spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. There I am with the Lord, why should I feel lonely?” And she had invited other people who felt alone to do the same.
Isn’t it a pity that it needs the death of a loved one or some other tragic incidents to bring people to the realization of Christ’s constant presence in the Eucharist?
Isn’t a pity that some who feel lonely try to find company at mahjong tables – fleeting moments of companionship, only to feel even more lonely when the game is over.
My wish for all of you all on this Easter day is that in your disappointments and discouragements, in your problems and struggles, you become aware that you are not alone, that the Risen Lord is very much alive and powerful, that he travels with you on your often difficult road of life, that in the Eucharist he offers himself to stay – not only with you – but in you.
Yes, we call ourselves rightly Easter people, for we are people who live in the presence of the Risen Lord who will never let us down.
Like the two disciples, go and share this good news, and so be missionaries, people who make others aware that the world is not an accident, that in spite of the tragedies and catastrophes, in spite of so many sufferings in the world and in our individual live, that in spite of all this, the Risen Lord is present and takes care of us – if only we open ourselves to his presence, if only we do not take him for granted, if only we do our task: sharing the good news – after all he has done for us and continues to do for us.