Jesus is Truly Present Among Us in the Eucharist
March 30, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Wednesday Within the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 3:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 24:13-35)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord chastises these two disciples as they are on their way to Emmaus because they are so slow of heart, because they do not understand and they do not believe. If you put yourself into this situation, one could understand how here are two people who have some business to do in Emmaus, the Lord had died and it was now a couple of days later, and they were planning on walking to Emmaus. But now you put in there the things that they themselves said – Some women had gone to the tomb, they saw a vision of angels who said that the Lord had risen from the dead, but the Lord they did not see; some of the apostles went there and they saw it exactly as the women said – and then they left Jerusalem anyway. That is the part that does not make any sense.
If this is what is going on, you then have to ask the question, “What’s wrong with these people?” But they are not any different from us. How many times have we heard the same truths over and over again, and how slow of heart we are to believe. Here they are walking along, telling the Lord Himself what they had heard, that they had hoped He was the one who would redeem Israel. He had told them three times that He was going to have to suffer and be put to death and that He would rise on the third day. Certainly, they did not understand what it meant to rise from the dead, but the fact is that the angels had appeared to tell them that this had happened and still they did not have a clue. So we see the difficulty that all of us are going to have to face.
If what we try to do is to understand things merely on the natural level, we will never understand at all. We can have lots of head knowledge, but that does not matter. The Lord even went through the Scriptures with them and He spoke to them about every single passage that referred to Him. They are so obvious to anyone with two eyes, and still they did not get it. He went through and showed them how the Messiah had to suffer; He showed them that the Messiah would rise from the dead; He showed them all the different things that the Old Testament prophets and Moses himself had said regarding the Lord. They had all the head knowledge that they needed, but they still did not believe. They did not recognize Him. They did not see the truth. They had the truth in their head, but they did not put it into the heart.
It was not until the Lord took the bread at dinner, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them in the Eucharist. Then they recognized Him. That was not about the head – that was about the heart. It was not until they were able to recognize Him in the depths of their being, that they were able to recognize Him now in a relational way, not just in a way of knowledge, but in a way of love. Immediately, these men who were going to retire for the night got up and went back all the way to Jerusalem.
If we sit back and look at it and say, “Why did they leave in the first place?” it is because it had not gotten into the heart. And so we need to look at our own selves and wonder, “How much am I like these two men? How much head knowledge do I have, but how much have I really allowed to sink into the heart? How much do I really recognize the Lord? And how much do I just simply try to figure everything out?” Head knowledge is important, it is essential, but the knowledge of the heart is what is most critical. We need to be able to recognize Him truly present in the Eucharist, not just to “know” that He is there because that is what the Church teaches and the Lord Himself made it so clear, but to know in the depths of our being that it is He, that He is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, that we know that in the heart, in a relational way, in a way of love. Then we will understand why our hearts burn when we hear about Him in the Scriptures. Then we will understand why our hearts burn when we think about Him, when we ponder the truths that the Church teaches. But it does not make sense entirely until the one piece that brings it all together is in place, and that is Jesus Christ truly present among us in the Eucharist.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.