As the disciples approached the village to which they were going, Jesus gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. (Lk 24:28-31)
Those two disciples had walked that road from Jerusalem to Emmaus before. They had read the Scriptures before. They had shared meals before. But not like this. This meal was different because it was presided over by the risen Christ.
In this week’s scriptural text, Luke is answering the question that must have been asked back then and has been asked ever since: “Why should I go to Mass? I can read the Scriptures, I can pray, why go to Mass?”
I can read the Scriptures, and I should. I can pray and I should. But there is something different, something unique, in the liturgy, and that something is the presence of the risen Christ.
There are different levels of presence. God is everywhere and God was everywhere for those two disciples. But there was a distinctive, more intense, more active presence of Jesus when they sat down to break bread that day. And we believe that when a sacrament is celebrated, especially the Eucharist, that is the kind of presence we experience.
The risen Lord is with me in a distinctive way at the Eucharist. His presence had a powerful effect on the two disciples when he broke bread with them that day. His presence in the Eucharist can have a powerful effect on me.
Zoe Laboure (better known by her religious name, “Catherine”) was born on this day in 1806 in the Burgundy region of France.
When she was nine, her mother died. Kneeling before a picture of the Blessed Mother, the grief-stricken little girl prayed, “Now, dear Blessed Mother, now you will be my mother.”
At 24, Catherine decided to join the Daughters of Charity and work with the sick. As a young novice in Paris, she began to experience visions of the Blessed Mother. In one of these, Mary asked her to have a medal made – showing Mary’s picture and the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Catherine kept this vision to herself, telling only her spiritual director. It was through him that devotion to what became known as the “Miraculous Medal” quickly spread.
Through all this, Catherine stayed in the background. Only when she was near death in 1876, did Catherine reveal her 45-year secret and confide to her superior the role she had in bringing into existence the Miraculous Medal.
* * * Like St. Catherine Laboure, St. Teresa of Avila also made the same choice of Mary for her mother. She did this while praying before a statue of Mary shortly after her own mother’s death.