[COLUMN] The Road to Emmaus: a story about the Eucharist

The Gospel on this Third Sunday of Easter (April 23) is full of emotions: the disciples looking downcast and filled with sorrow as they stopped on their way; their surprise and agitation at learning that the “man” who joined them in their walk did not have a clue about what happened to Jesus; their disappointment about Jesus they expected to redeem  Israel; being stunned about the women’s report of not seeing the body of Jesus in the tomb; and, finally, their hearts burning within them as Jesus spoke on the way, opening the Scriptures, and breaking bread with them.

Luke vividly narrates this story, ending with a deep sense of awe at discovering that the man who walked with them was the Risen Jesus.

Doesn’t this story tell us about our experiences of the Eucharist? Each of us comes to Mass with varied emotions: sorrow, joy, disappointment, excitement, anxiety, gratitude, boredom, and the feeling of being blessed. But, whatever emotion we go through at Mass, I hope we understand Jesus’ desire for us: to feel his presence and closeness,  especially in the Scriptures and the preaching, our prayers together, and our communion with Jesus’ Body and Blood.

The Eucharist is God’s precious gift to us. It signifies Christ’s promise at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: he will be with us until the end of the ages. It’s the testament of God’s sacrificial and eternal love for us—the memorial of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.

Today the Church urges us to appreciate the Eucharist and its significance deeply. It’s not just a Sunday obligation but a means to grow profoundly in our relationship with God and one another in peace, love, and justice. It is the Door to the Sacred, the “hem of the garment” we touch to receive healing and hope. It is the foretaste of the eternal banquet that awaits us in heaven. It is the source and summit of Christian life and spirituality.

The Eucharist unites, strengthens, encourages, and inspires our parish communities. That is why there is a deep yearning for people to return to the Eucharist in person after the pandemic.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington shared people’s yearning for the Eucharist in an interview with Aleteia News. He shared: “Whenever I go to our parishes, one of the first things I hear as I greet the people is ‘Bishop, isn’t it so good to be back together? I never knew how much we needed each other and how much we could take that blessing for granted.’”

It is the same sentiment I had during our Easter Masses two weeks ago. It was so delightful to see the big attendance of people in all our Masses. I  also wish that we feel the presence, love, care, and compassion of Jesus at Mass and are inspired to share them with everyone we meet along the way.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.


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