In his last apostolic letter, Mane Nobiscum Domine (Stay With Us, Lord), St. John Paul II reflected upon our receipt of Christ in the Eucharist. Much of that letter was based upon the experience of the disciples whom the risen Jesus met on the road to Emmaus, whose longings for Him were satisfied as our desire for Christ is fulfilled at every Mass.
As described in the Gospel according to Luke, Cleopas and another disciple had eagerly desired the fulfillment of Jesus’ promises, and were saddened by their apparent failure. They did not let go of the promise, but rather continued talking about their hopes between themselves and then to Jesus, whom they saw only as a fellow traveler. Speaking with Him about their hopes and anxieties was dangerous, for the authorities who crucified Jesus could next go after His disciples. Jesus rebuked them for failing to understand the Scriptures, but then explained how the sacred words applied to Him, whom they still did not recognize. They did not resent His rebuke, but rather listened eagerly with “burning hearts” to His discourse. They then invited Him to stay with them that night, both to be hospitable and to continue hearing more of this divine wisdom. Finally, when Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, they recognized Him who had done the same at the multiplication of the loaves a year earlier. Jesus disappeared from their sight, but was still with them. The disciples then ran seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples. It was a dangerous journey, for the roads were not secure or lit, but they could not wait to share their joy.
As St. John Paul II pointed out, throughout our lives and particularly at every Mass, we also gather together with all our experiences, good and bad, and Jesus joins with us. We long for Jesus and listen to His words from the Bible and the Church. We recognize Him in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist, the bread from heaven. And Jesus sends us forth to share the glorious message with others. This holy longing to receive and share the life of Jesus will finally be satisfied when we meet Jesus face to face and receive the greater kingdom we have longed for on this earth. For, as Jesus said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6)