Seeing and Believing

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter-3A, 30 April 2017
Acts 2:14,22-33//1Peter 1:17-21//Luke 24:13-35

There are journeys in life that can change us. One of
this is a pilgrimage to the Holy Land wherein some people who walk
through the roads Jesus walked experience spiritual renewal or even
conversions. It is still too early to say what have changed in me
after my recent pilgrimage there which is also my second in 15 years.
Two things I have realized in my Holy Land trip last week: first,
there are just too many holy sites to be visited that I thought I have
seen everything in my previous pilgrimage. And secondly, every visit
to the same place is always different because like my first
observation, there are too much to be seen in every particular site.
Seeing the thousands of pilgrims with a great number of them in their
senior years while others stricken with some forms of disabilities, I
have realized only now that it is not really our sense of sight that
matters most but the heart and soul within us in visiting the Holy
Land. Our very kind guide Amitai Elon said it so well in every place
we visited that “the fact that something is in front of our eyes does
not mean that we actually see it; we must pray for God to open our
blind eyes so we can really see.”

In my two Holy Land pilgrimages, I feel so blessed to have
started it both in Jerusalem by retracing the steps of Jesus Christ
from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. I could not believe on this second
trip how I have missed in 2015 the important fact that just above the
Tomb of David is the Upper Room where Jesus celebrated His Last
Supper! Like the two disciples in our Gospel today going to Emmaus, I
felt my heart “burning within” when Amitai told us near the statue of
David in the Old Jerusalem that in life, there are no accidents or
coincidences. Like us all, he claimed that everything that happens in
our lives is a part of God’s Grand Design. Then Amitai cited as
example the Tomb of David, Israel’s greatest king wherein over 500
years later would have an Upper Room directly above it where his most
famous descendant, Jesus the Messiah would celebrate His Passover
meal?! The imagery is beyond any theology or philosophy where David
and the “stump of Jesse”, Jesus, share the same spot of their
memorials: David a rock draped in dark blue cloth with embroidered
picture of the menorah while upstairs, a bare room where our
Eucharistic feast of the breaking of bread started as He commanded to
“do this in memory of me.” Most of all, beyond coincidence is the
imagery of the Upper Room above the Tomb, of Jesus Christ greater and
over David!

As I prayed over this Sunday’s readings, I kept
remembering that second full day of our recent pilgrimage in Jerusalem
at the Tomb of David and the Upper Room especially when St. Peter
preached, “My brothers, one can confidently say to you about our
patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb (stress
mine) is in our midst to this day.”(Acts 2:29) That early, St. Peter
had been preaching about Jesus and David with all the proofs right
there in Jerusalem. Up to now, there are still others who refuse to
believe or simply do not care at all. Like the two disciples going
home to Emmaus, they walk the opposite direction, away from Jerusalem,
away from Jesus who continues to follow us even in the opposite
direction. It is funny that in Jerusalem, one would really feel
sometimes at a loss with the huge traffic of people largely pilgrims
that sometimes one could lose one’s sense of direction. St. Luke
provides us with two important guides in finding our way to Jesus
Christ always, anywhere in the world: the Sacred Scriptures and the
Breaking of Bread.

Notice that in all stories of the appearances of Jesus,
there is always the interplay of physical seeing and internal
recognition, of seeing and believing as well as believing and seeing.
The two disciples walking to Emmaus saw Jesus but did not recognize
Him. It is along this reality of our “knowing” Jesus as a fact
without “recognizing” Him personally that St. Luke underscores the
prerequisites in “seeing” the Risen Lord, the equally important
reading and praying of Sacred Scriptures and celebrating the Holy Mass
that used to be called “the breaking of bread”. In the First Reading
and the Gospel, which were both written by St. Luke, we find the
importance of studying the Sacred Scriptures. Last April 18, I
celebrated my 19th year of priesthood at the chapel of St. Jerome in
Bethlehem; he lived in that cave under the Nativity site while
translating the bible into Latin (Vulgate Bible). It was St. Jerome
who rightly said in the course of his biblical studies that “ignorance
of the scriptures is ignorance of Jesus Christ.” When I saw the great
crowds of people thirsting for the word of God in the Holy Land, I
felt a great sigh of relief that contrary to modern trends of people
leaving the Church, there is great hope in the future of the Church.
When Ms. Jessica Soho invited me to join their pilgrimage, she simply
asked me to be their spiritual guide who would explain the scriptures
and catechism for their spiritual renewal at the Holy Land. (So, do
not wait for any special episode in “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” because
it was purely a journey for spiritual renewal for her and two other
colleagues at GMA-7 News and Public Affairs.) In Ein Karem is the
beautiful Church of the Visitation where Mary visited her cousin
Elizabeth. At the patio by the wall of the Magnificat in different
languages stand the bronze sculptures of these two great women who
believed first in the Word of God and its fulfillment in their sons to
be born.

Such is also the flow of our Holy Mass, first the
proclamation of the Word of God then the liturgy of the Eucharist or
Body and Blood of Christ. Notice that after feeling something
different within them while Jesus explained the scriptures to the two
disciples on the way to Emmaus, “their eyes were opened and they
recognized him” (Lk.24:31) after the Lord took bread, gave thanks,
broke it, and gave it to them. The Eucharist is the summit of our
Christian life because it is our highest form of prayer and worship
where Jesus Christ Himself is present among us in every celebration.
We also refer to it as the Holy Communion because it is the communion
of God with our own human experiences of pains and hurts, failures and
sins, sickness and death. In going through His Passion and Death,
Jesus established a “common union” with us all so that we may share in
the glory of His Resurrection that every time we celebrate the
breaking of bread, we internally recognize Him present in us. And
here lies the challenge of Easter: every time we recognize Jesus,
whether in the scriptures or in the breaking of bread, in the daily
events of our lives, in our journeys, He often disappears because like
with Cleopas and companion, Christ does not want us to be stuck in
Emmaus or Jerusalem or in our Holy Mass in the Parish. The Risen Lord
“sends us forth” (Itte missa est!) as the priest says at the end of
the Mass to continue the journey of proclaiming His love and mercy,
His life and joy, especially His presence among us even if we do not
see Him with our naked eyes. Amen. Fr.Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni
San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta.
Maria, Bulacan