Today’s gospel is the well know and wonderfully told account of the two travelers on their way to Emmaus on the later afternoon of that first Easter Sunday. They are on their way home with hopes dashed: the one they thought the Messiah has been executed and is now entombed with the dead. They journey with fear, uncertainty, and a whole range of other emotions and worries. Not unlike us. And Jesus journeys with them. As he does with us. The outline of the story can not help but noted as an outline of the Mass – a liturgy of the Word followed by a liturgy of the Eucharist. The former taking place on the road as Jesus opens up the Word of God. The latter taking place at table where Jesus is the host and sacramentally also the food.
What I love about the account is that Jesus walks with them even when they do not recognize him. He knows their hearts and emotions even when they don’t know their own. He leads them to a place and situation where they have the conditions for the possibility of recognizing Him in the breaking of the bread – even while they carry their fears, hopes, worries and more.
At the celebration of the Mass, we invite people to bring what they carry in their hearts to the celebration of the Mass. After the Gloria, there is the Collect Prayer (pronounced kah-lec) but our English pronunciation of “collect” is appropriate. When the priest says, “Let us pray,” that is the moment he is asking for you to add your fears, hopes, worries, intentions, concerns, petitions and more – and join them to this perfect sacrifice to the Father – the Eucharist.
Perhaps those thoughts and concern will occupy your mind and heart for the whole of the Mass. You might half listen to the readings, hardly notice the homily, and just be present for the Eucharist – it happens. But know that all the while Jesus walks with you. Jesus invites you to table to share in an intimate communion with Him. All the while He knows your heart.
So, next time, as preparation for Mass, take a moment to collect your thoughts and be ready to intentionally offer them as part of the Collect Prayer. Then take a pause from life and those concerns and journey with Jesus that your heart may be burning in hearing the Word and that you recognize the Christ in the breaking of the bread.