Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The road to Emmaus has long been a point of meditation in the Church’s history. From the Fathers of the Church who reflected on the way that Jesus opened the Scriptures and was revealed in the breaking of bread to the more modern Emmaus youth retreats, this story of two disciples encountering Jesus after His Resurrection has instructed believers and invited them to encounter Jesus in their own lives. The Church proposes this Gospel passage for us each year as an invitation to once more encounter Jesus who walks with us, and to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread, that is, to recognize Him in the Eucharist.
I’m tired of writing the word “pandemic,” or somehow weaving our quarantine into everything I say, but these very real circumstances can and must influence our meditation on God’s word. The walk of these two disciples is reflective. They discuss the very serious things they have just witnessed, they share their innermost feelings, and together struggle to come to terms with the Crucifixion. Jesus joins them on the way, though they do not recognize Him, and when they invite Him into their conversation, He breaks them out of their echo chamber and allows them to see the Cross and Resurrection as the fulfillment of all the Scriptures, the fulfillment of their hopes. It is at table, in the breaking of bread, though, that He is fully revealed.
Brookside Drive is very busy, not with cars, but with people walking. Our parking lot, too, is busy, not with cars, but with walkers and bike riders. I can hear them talking, though I can’t hear what they say. But I imagine that like everyone, the topic of this quarantine arises in their conversations. For us as Catholics, it is important to recognize that Jesus wants to break us out of our echo chambers and help us see His presence in all things. Further, He wants us to see and know Him in the breaking of the bread, that is, in the Mass, in the Eucharist. But without the public celebration of Mass, this is extra challenging. I hear from many people how much they miss receiving the Eucharist. This longing for the Eucharist is good – I’m glad that people miss receiving Jesus – but challenging. The Act of Spiritual Communion is good, but not sufficient. Earlier this week Pope Francis acknowledged that live-streamed Masses, while a positive pastoral initiative in a time of crisis, is not reflective of the Church. The Church is a community gathered in professing the faith at the altar, united by the Eucharist, where Jesus is made known in the breaking of bread. And so we find ourselves longing for the Eucharist, even as we benefit from viewing Mass online or on television. This week, Bishop Caggiano will be holding a series of Zoom meetings with pastors around the Diocese, and one of the issues I will raise with him is the longing for the Eucharist experienced by so many. In addition to exercising the virtue of patience as we wait for the ability to gather as a community around the altar, we also need to find a way to gradually return to the altar together. I don’t know what this will require or how long it will take, but I want you to know that your desire for the Eucharist has been heard and efforts are being made to figure out a solution that will aid spiritual health while protecting physical health.
In the meantime, Jesus still desires to be made known to us in the Eucharist. If you are missing receiving Holy Communion, I encourage you to make a visit to our chapel which is always open (outside of Mass times), where Jesus waits for you in the Eucharist. On Sundays, the church is open all day until 6 PM. Visit Jesus in the tabernacle . While you are there, pray for an end to the pandemic. Give to the Lord your desire to receive the Eucharist again. Pray for Bishop Caggiano and our civic leaders who are responsible for making decisions surrounding our ability to gather. Pray for the grace to accept the cross of quarantine with patience, courage, and charity.