The Most Glorious Gift
April 3, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Wednesday in the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 3:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 24:13-35)
In this account that we hear from the Gospel of Saint Luke today, we once again hear the lack of faith that the disciples of Jesus had. These two men obviously were not part of the Twelve, but rather, that wider body of disciples of Our Lord. Nonetheless, they knew that Jesus had said He would rise from the dead on the third day and that the women had gone to the tomb and said they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive, and still they did not believe. All [these] things had occurred and they did not get it.
We cannot really blame them, of course, because who of us would be any different? To be able to have a grasp of what it means when Jesus said that He would rise from the dead on the third day when they had never seen this happen with anyone before, how would they be able to understand? But, as Our Lord said to them, "How slow you are to believe." So the Lord sits down with them at table, takes the bread, blesses it, and breaks it; and it is in that that their eyes are opened. Jesus gives to them exactly what Peter and John gave to the man at the temple gate. Peter said to the man, "What I do have I give to you: In the Name of Jesus the Nazorean, walk." Instead of saying, "In the Name of Jesus the Nazoreanů" the Lord simply gives Himself to them in the Blessed Sacrament. And it is in the Eucharist that they are able to see. It was not in the Scriptures that their eyes were opened - even though their hearts were burning as they heard the Word of God and all of the passages that referred to the Lord - but only when they received Our Lord in the Eucharist.
For us now today, with our own lack of faith and understanding of what it is that the Lord is doing, whether it is in our own lives, whether it is in the Church, whether it is in the world, no matter what the circumstances, we come here and the Lord looks upon us, and as we [the priests] break the bread we can say with Peter, "What I do have I give to you: Jesus the Nazorean." He enters into our hearts, and if we are willing, the eyes of our hearts will be opened. Maybe we will not understand fully what it is that He is trying to do, but the understanding will be there that we need to trust. The grace will be there to let go and to turn everything over to Him. Like the disciples, as we come before the Lord, our hearts should be burning.
And like the beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, we should have our eyes fixed intently on the Lord, not expecting to get alms, but rather waiting to hear the word that will come from Him - indeed, waiting to hear the Word who is Him: He is the Word of God. We want to hear His voice, and we want to receive Him and be with Him. So it is not just simply a matter of sitting here, beggars that we are, watching as the Lord walks by; but rather, we want to fix our attention firmly upon Him so that we will be listening. We will be watching intently so that when He speaks and when He gives Himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament, we will indeed have our hearts open already, burning with love for Him. Then the eyes of the heart, the eyes of the mind, and the understanding will be opened to be able to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread, to be able to know Him as we receive Him in the Blessed Sacrament, and to be able to give ourselves to Him as He gives Himself to us.
And so, He gives to us the most glorious gift that He could possibly give: the gift of Himself, the gift of His resurrected Self in the Blessed Sacrament. And in that, He heals us. Those of us, who will come before Him and humble ourselves to beg from Him, will receive the gift that He is going to offer: Jesus the Nazorean in the Blessed Sacrament, to open the eyes of our hearts and minds so that we will be able to receive the gift which He Himself will give - the gift which is Himself.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.