Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption
Praised Be Jesus Christ. Good Morning everyone.
On behalf of Fr. Ryan Maher, Fr, Michael Norton,
Bishop Roger Foys, Sr. Barbara Woeste, the rest of the Cathedral Staff,
the parishioners of the Cathedral and myself,
I extend to you, family and friends of Rebecca, our deepest sympathies.
Over the years, I became a friend of Rebecca
and so I, too, feel an emptiness, a void, in my life,
a void in that I can no longer visit with her, share scripture with her
or bring Jesus to her in Holy Communion.
She has now gone to meet him.
The Gospel selection which I just read is one that
I find rich in its teachings.
It is a reading that I find reflective of Rebecca’s encounter
with the Lord, as I knew her.
The encounter on the road to Emmaus happened on Easter day.
Apparently the two disciples were the second and third persons
to encounter the risen Lord.
Mary Magdalen had encountered him in the garden
near the tomb early on Easter morning.
Peter encountered the risen Lord at some point during that day,
and most of the rest of the apostles encountered Him
in the upper room later that evening.
The two disciples had quite an experience.
There are three points on which I would like to focus:
How the disciples met Jesus, how He shared Sacred Scripture
with them and how they shared a meal with Him.
1. “… while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”
No matter what we are doing, God is with us, by our side;
and we don’t recognize Him.
Most of the time God is with us just in Spirit, the Holy Spirit,
but at many times in our lives Jesus, because he was human,
is made manifest to us in another person.
It might be a priest or a minister;
it might be a parent, a daughter, a son, a friend;
it might be a complete stranger – someone who treats us,
maybe helps us - as Jesus would treat us.
Jesus often works through persons to help us in times of need,
to help us to a stronger personal relationship with him.
We are all called to a personal relationship with Jesus.
And as Christians, we are all called, at times, to take on the role
of being Jesus for others.
Rebecca was one of those persons who stood in for Jesus for me.
By her willingness to let me come into her home, to visit with her,
to share the word of God with her
and to bring her the Lord in Holy Communion,
she helped me to fulfill my calling as a deacon.
All Christians are called to be open to those opportunities
to be Jesus for someone else.
2. “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets
he interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures.”
Jesus explained to the disciples that He was the Messiah
that God had promised for the Israelite people and for everyone.
There are many indications of this in the Old Testament.
The books of the Old testament are the Good News
of the promise of salvation for the Israelite people.
The New Testament tells us of the fulfillment of that promise
in Jesus Christ.
It is this fulfillment of the promise that made the disciples hearts
to be “burning within them.”
We must read the Sacred Scriptures, study them, understand them
and do our best to live by them.
They tell us what we must KNOW about God:
Father, Son and Spirit.
But more importantly the scriptures tell us what we must DO
to attain everlasting life, to be with God forever when we die.
That is what made their hearts burn within them.
When a preacher preaches,
that person is not only trying to help others
to understand what the Word of God says,
that person is also trying to help others to
apply that understanding to situations of their everyday lives.
When I would bring communion to Rebecca,
I would always read the Gospel of the day
and offer my thoughts on how it applies to us.
She would always be very attentive,
despite her difficulties with breathing.
So attentive in fact, that she would often ask questions
about the reading.
She wanted to know more, and that gave me a feeling of joy.
I am not sure whether her heart was “burning within her,”
but she definitely recognized the value of God’s Word.
All of us must be attentive to God’s Word in Scripture
and must follow God’s direction in order to attain eternal life.
3. “…while he was with them at table, he took bread, blessed it,
broke it and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened…”
They recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread,
in the meal that they shared.
That is our challenge also – to recognize Jesus in Holy Communion.
Because of several things that Jesus said in Scripture,
we Catholics believe that what we receive as Holy Communion
at Mass is truly the Body of Christ.
This is another way that Jesus is present to us –
not just as a symbol, but really present.
In the Mass what continues to look like a wafer of unleavened bread
becomes the actual Body of Christ.
Our receiving the Body of Jesus as food, a physical nourishment,
helps us to realize that what we are receiving
is more importantly for our spiritual nourishment.
Rebecca truly believed that Holy Communion was Jesus.
We talked about that.
She was always so glad to be able to receive it each week.
Although during the time I knew her, she never had the opportunity
to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion,
she watched our televised Mass at every chance she had.
In this Gospel Jesus was teaching his disciples and us
that, for each of us to develop the personal relationship
with our Savior for our salvation,
we must recognize Jesus in those around us,
we must know Jesus from what is recorded in the Bible
and we must receive Jesus within our bodies
and take him to our hearts.
What I saw in Rebecca was a sincere love for the Lord,
a need to know Him better
and a desire to take Him into her heart.
We should all be so devoted to the Lord.