3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A
6-9 year olds
(Adults, begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child, unless the child is a very fluent reader.)
The Gospel for this Sunday again takes place on the day that Jesus rises from the dead, full of the new life of God. This moment in Jesus' life, his birth into the Risen life of God, is so important that the Church returns again and again to the events of that day. This reading takes place in the afternoon of that day.
Two of Jesus' disciples are walking away from Jerusalem. They have already heard the Good News from the women who went to the tomb and found it empty, but they have not recognized that this is Good News.
I like the word recognize. It means to know again something that you once knew. It also means to realize that something is true. St. Luke uses the Greek word for recognize, Epiginosko, in some form 4 times in this Gospel reading.
The first time we hear it is while the disciples are walking away from Jerusalem:
Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
Jesus walks with them, but they do not know it is him. They once knew him, but now they do not. They do not realize the truth. There is a problem.
Jesus said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?”...Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him,“Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
This is the second time St. Luke uses a form of epiginosko. The disciples so completely do not recognize the Good News, that think that Jesus is the one who does not know.
So what do they know?
Jesus asks them to tell him and we get a peek into what they know. Let's check if what they know is true.
“...Jesus of Nazareth...was a prophet mighty in deed and word...
Well, that is true. We know he is more than that, but it is true.
...our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him...
...we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel...
Now that is a very sad truth. They had hoped. That means their hope has died. That makes my heart ache.
...it is now the third day since these things took place...
That is true, too. I wonder why they mention this. They must think the third day is important. Maybe they remember Jesus speaking about rising on the third day. Maybe they want to believe...?
...Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”
This is true as well. All of what they know is true. So the problem does not have to do with the knowledge they have.
Jesus says to them,
“Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe”
"Slow of heart." What does that mean? Is Jesus calling them dumb? Nope. He says nothing about their brains. Their problem with recognizing is being caused by their hearts. The truth is right in front of them but do not yet believe. They do not realize the truth. I wonder why their hearts are slow to believe.
When they are slow of heart, Jesus takes time to explain.
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
He talks to them about what is written in the Holy Bible. He helps them to understand what it means. Later they say,
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
Their hearts burn inside of them as they listen to the Word of God. What is this burning? Something is going on inside of them. Or perhaps it is someone. Someone who changes knowing into believing. Someone whose work causes deep, deep joy.
When the disciples have spent time with the Word of God, and their hearts are burning, they do not want Jesus to go. They say,
“Stay with us”
Stay. The Greek word for "stay" is meno. This is the same word that Jesus repeats over and over in the parable of the True Vine. He says,
Meno in me as I meno in you. (John 15:4)
Meno means stay or remain. It means "make your home with me". What does Jesus do when they ask him to stay?
So he went in to stay with them.
Well that makes sense, because in the Parable of the True Vine he says,
If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
They sit down to share a meal together but still they do not recognize Jesus. But then,
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
Jesus repeats the same actions that he does at the Last Supper. He takes, blesses, breaks, and gives them the bread that is his body. In that moment, when Jesus helps them remember the Last Supper, and at the same time to celebrate it again,
their eyes were opened, and they recognized him
Epiginosko! Now they know again someone they once knew! Now they realize what is --and has always been--true!
Jesus is alive. He is Risen. Never to die again.
It is truth that we experience when we share the Word of God.
It is truth we remember and celebrate every time we gather for Mass.
It is truth that we realize over and over.
You and I, we recognize this truth.