“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know of the things that have just taken place there?” –What things do you mean? (Luke 24:18-19)
In addition to all His other enchanting qualities, the Lord Jesus has a perfect sense of humor. ‘What things to you mean? …Oh, you mean when I rode into the city as the Prince of Peace, only to be betrayed? You mean when a skeleton-crew Sanhedrin convicted me of blasphemy in the middle of the night? You mean when the Roman procurator staved-off a riot by letting the centurions scourge and crucify Me? You mean all that nonsense?
‘Seems like ancient history to Me now. I’ve literally been to hell and back since then. I’ve already seen Mary Magdalen…
‘Wait a minute, you men don’t believe the ladies who went to the tomb and say that it is empty? Don’t believe them? And why not? When was the last time you knew better than they? How about never?’
The Lord has every right to make fun of us all, because we are slow of heart to believe. He explained practically the entire Old Testment to Cleopas and the other disciple, on the road to Emmaus, and still they did not realize with Whom they spoke.
But: Let’s give these two disciples credit. They did recognize Christ at the all-important moment. The moment when our faith in God, our faith in Christ, and our faith in the Church, our faith in each other–they recognized Him at the moment when the entire Christian faith comes together into one act of total trust: The breaking of the bread, the Holy Eucharist, the Mass.
We talked about this three years ago when we read this gospel passage, but let’s talk about it again. Out here in the rolling hills of Virginny, we live in Protestant territory. We love our Protestant brothers and sisters, some of whom we rejoice to have with us when we celebrate the Mass. But we cannot allow confusion to enter into our devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Faith in the presence of Christ in the Host and Chalice–faith in the Real Presence–this is not some optional ‘add on’ to ‘mere Christianity.’ To believe in God Almighty, to believe in Jesus, true God and true man, and to believe in His Body and Blood on the altar–all of this makes one single, unified act of Christian faith. This unified act of faith is our humble human response to God’s Word.
Since the simplification of the sacred ceremonies of the Church which took place a generation ago, we have come to call two parts of the Mass, “the Liturgy of the Word” and “the Liturgy of the Eucharist.” It makes sense that we use these terms.
But these phrases can obscure one very important fact. The consecration of bread and wine according to Christ’s command: This is the ultimate and perfect proclamation of the Word of God. The “Liturgy of the Eucharist” entails the proclamation of the Word par excellence.
Everybody should have a Bible and should read it all the time. The more we read it, the more we realize: the consecration of the Host and Chalice is the beating heart of it. Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is the living Word of God. The Bible is our true friend, guide, and companion precisely to the extent that our lives are centered around the altar and the tabernacle.
The disciples’ hearts burned when they met the Lord. May our hearts burn, too, with love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.