Jesus, Be Known to Us

04-14-2024Weekly Reflection© LPi Fr. John Muir

When I was a kid, a friend at my home parish told me, “If you get to Mass by the Gospel reading, it counts!” As a lifelong late-arriver, it’s something I have told myself many times, especially in my earlier years as a Catholic. If the “it counts” is justifiable on a pathetically minimal scale of liturgical legalism, then the Gospel reading today shows how insanely wrong-headed it is, and how helpful it is to re-think the Mass in its light.

The famous “Road to Emmaus” story recounts, on that first Sunday of the Resurrection, the basic two-fold structure of the Mass: Word, followed by Eucharist. Jesus spends a significant period of time with two dismayed disciples, as he connects a wide swath of the Hebrew scriptures with his own suffering, death, and resurrection. They would later report that this Liturgy of the Word touched their hearts with an inexplicable fire. This Word-induced flame alone is what leads the two disciples to discover Jesus’ presence in the “breaking of the bread.”

With this in mind, how can we possibly think that the Liturgy of the Word is unnecessary or incidental? The two disciples needed the Scriptures explained to them in order to experience Jesus alive in the eucharistic breaking of bread. Sure, we say, but they had the Risen Jesus. But that’s precisely the point: Jesus is risen and accompanies us in both parts of the Mass. Imagine how much our experience of Jesus in the Eucharist would deepen if we (preachers and listeners) took even more seriously that Jesus himself sets our hearts ablaze with his Word so that we know him in the Eucharist. That Word-induced fire counts, too!