Robert Maloney CM – Homily preached April 23, 2014 at a meeting of MEGVIS, the Central European Group of Vincentian Studies
Readings: Acts 3: 1-10; Luke 24:13-35
This passage from Luke’s gospel is extraordinarily rich. It contains the most important Lucan themes.
Luke’s gospel focuses on the following of Christ. Chapters 9-19 are dedicated to that theme. In the middle of chapter nine, Jesus turns to his followers and says to them (Luke 9:23): “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” He then sets off for Jerusalem. In Luke’s 19th Chapter, he finally arrives there.
But now in chapter 24, after Jesus’ crucifixion and death, the disciples are fleeing from Jerusalem. Notice the irony. Luke’s Gospel is about accompanying Jesus to Jerusalem in order to die with him. This chapter is about the disciples’ flight away from Jerusalem in discouragement.
But a startling change takes place. Luke reintroduces four of his most important themes into chapter 24. First, unexpectedly, once again they are walking with Jesus, even though they don’t know it. Secondly, they are listening to his Word and their hearts begin to burn within them. Third, they realize, as Jesus tells them, that he had to suffer in order to enter into his glory. Fourth, they recognize him in the breaking of the bread.
Then their eyes are opened! And another huge change takes place. They go back to Jerusalem and announce the Good News to the apostles and disciples. As Luke puts it, they “recounted what had taken place on the way and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Today and tomorrow, we will be discussing systemic change. We hope in these days to change our own way of doing things, so that a radical change might also take place in the lives of the poor. We hope that, beyond giving the poor food or clothing or shelter, we can assist them to change the overall circumstances of their lives, so that they emerge from poverty. Is such a change possible?
Jesus assures us today that radical change is utterly possible. He tells us that where there was death, there can be life, that where there were tears, there can be joy, and that where there was complete disillusionment, as in the case of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, there can be renewed faith, energy and enthusiasm.
For members of the Vincentian Family, our work with the poor is not just a social work. It involves a spirituality. Notice the four Lucan themes in today’s gospel. They were close to the heart of St. Vincent: 1) walking with Jesus to Jerusalem and being willing to die with him and with the poor, who are Jesus’ special friends; 2) listening to Jesus’ word, here in the liturgy and also in the cries of the poor; 3); knowing that Christ had to suffer before entering into his glory, and knowing that we will suffer with him if we serve the poor faithfully; 4) recognizing the Lord in the breaking of the bread, and as St. Vincent so often reminded us, recognizing the Lord in the face of the poor person.
My brothers and sisters in the Vincentian Family, there may be times when we may be tempted to flee away from Jerusalem, as happened to the disciples on the road to Emmaus – times of discouragement or seeming failure. But the Lord assures us today: even when you walk away, I will walk with you. Listen to me. Let my word burn in your heart. Allow it to change you. Recognize me in the breaking of the bread. See me in the face of the poor. I want to and can change your life radically. Allow me to do it.