Monsignor Yennock on Finding Jesus in the Church - Homily April 30, 2017

May 1, 2017

FINDING JESUS IN THE CHURCH

THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER APRIL 30, 2017

Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22-33; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35

SOMETIMES WE HEAR PEOPLE SAY, I BELIEVE IN GOD, AND I BELIEVE IN JESUS, BUT I DON’T BELIEVE IN THE CHURCH. IN THE SIXTIES IT WAS COOL TO SAY: “I DIG JESUS BUT NOT THE CHURCH”.  

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT JESUS IS THE CHURCH. THE CHURCH IS NOT A BUILDING; IT IS NOT AN INSTITUTION, IT IS NOT A CLUB. THE CHURCH IS A PERSON.

THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS USED TO SAY: “THE CHURCH IS LIKE THE MOON. ALL ITS LIGHT IS REFLECTED FROM THE SUN. THE SUN IS JESUS CHRIST.

THE CHURCH IS ALSO CALLED THE PEOPLE OF GOD. THIS IMAGE IS TAKEN FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT. THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL WERE THE PEOPLE OF GOD.

THE CHURCH IS JESUS WORKING THROUGH HIS PEOPLE.

IN THE NEW TESTAMENT JESUS CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD. HE BRINGS THE PEOPLE TOGETHER INTO ONE BODY THAT WE CALL THE CHURCH. ST. PAUL CALLS THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST; THE MYSTERIOUS BODY OF CHRIST.

THE CHURCH IS A MYSTERY BECAUSE IT IS THE MEETING OF TWO WORLDS. GOD AND HUMAN BEINGS TOGETHER MAKE UP THE CHURCH.

MANY PEOPLE MISUNDERSTAND THE CHURCH BECAUSE THE CHURCH IS BOTH DIVINE AND HUMAN. IT IS JESUS AND US.

WE SHOULD EXPECT TO FIND PERFECTION AND HOLINESS IN THE CHURCH BECAUSE JESUS IS GOD.

WE SHOULD ALSO EXPECT TO FIND IMPERFECTION AND SINFULNESS IN THE CHURCH BECAUSE THE CHURCH IS HUMAN.

THE POPE, THE BISHOPS, THE PRIESTS, THE DEACONS, THE RELIGIOUS AND THE LAY PEOPLE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS.

HUMAN BEINGS CAN BE AMAZING AND HEROIC IN THEIR HOLINESS. THEY CAN ALSO BE SCANDALOUS IN THEIR BEHAVIOR. DON’T BE SURPRISED IF YOU FIND SAINTS AND SINNERS IN THE CHURCH.

AS THE OBLATE PRIEST FR. ROLHEISER PUTS IT: “THE CHURCH IS ALWAYS GOD HUNG BETWEEN TWO THIEVES. THUS, NO ONE SHOULD BE SURPRISED OR SHOCKED AT HOW BADLY THE CHURCH HAS BETRAYED THE GOSPEL AND HOW MUCH IT CONTINUES TO DO SO TODAY. HOWEVER, NOBODY SHOULD DENY THE GOOD THE CHURCH HAS DONE EITHER. IT HAS CARRIED GRACE, PRODUCED SAINTS, MORALLY CHALLENGED THE PLANET, AND MADE, HOWEVER IMPERFECTLY, A HOUSE FOR GOD TO DWELL IN ON THIS EARTH.

MANY PARENTS ARE HURT AND DISAPPOINTED WITH THE FLIGHT OF THEIR CHILDREN FROM THE CHURCH. YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE DISAPPOINTED BUT YOU NEVER GIVE UP HOPE. THERE ARE SOME STORIES OUT THERE THAT SHOW GOD IS NOT FINISHED WITH THEM YET.

ONE MOTHER TELLS A STORY THAT MANY PARENTS CAN RELATE TO. FOR YEARS SHE HAD PRAYED THAT HER TWO SONS WOULD RETURN TO THE FAITH.

THEN ONE SUNDAY MORNING IN CHURCH SHE COULDN’T BELIEVE HER EYES. HER TWO SONS CAME IN AND SAT ACROSS THE AISLE FROM HER. SHE WAS OVERJOYED.

AFTERWARD SHE ASKED HER SONS WHAT PROMPTED THEIR RETURN TO THE FAITH. THE YOUNGER SON TOLD THE STORY.

ONE SUNDAY MORNING, WHILE VACATIONING IN COLORADO, THEY WERE DRIVING DOWN A MOUNTAIN ROAD. THERE WAS A DOWNPOUR.

SUDDENLY THEY CAME UPON AN OLD MAN WITHOUT AN UMBRELLA. HE WAS SOAKED THROUGH AND THROUGH, AND WALKED WITH A NOTICEABLE LIMP. YET HE KEPT TRUDGING DOGGEDLY ALONG THE ROAD. THE BROTHERS STOPPED AND PICKED HIM UP.

IT TURNED OUT THAT THE STRANGER WAS ON HIS WAY TO MASS AT A CHURCH THREE MILES DOWN THE ROAD. THE BROTHERS TOOK HIM THERE.

SINCE THE RAIN WAS COMING DOWN SO HARD, AND SINCE THEY HAD NOTHING BETTER TO DO, THEY DECIDED TO WAIT FOR THE STRANGER TO TAKE HIM HOME AFTER MASS.

IT WASN’T LONG BEFORE THE TWO BOYS DECIDED THAT THEY MIGHT AS WELL GO INSIDE, RATHER THAN WAIT OUT IN THE CAR.

AS THE TWO BROTHERS LISTENED TO THE READING OF THE SCRIPTURES AND SAT THROUGH THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD, SOMETHING MOVED THEM DEEPLY.

THE ONLY WAY THEY COULD EXPLAIN IT LATER WAS: YOU KNOW, MOTHER, IT FELT SO RIGHT. LIKE GETTING HOME AFTER A LONG, TIRING TRIP.

THE STORY OF THE TWO BROTHERS, AND THEIR ENCOUNTER WITH THE STRANGER ON THE COLORADO ROAD, BEARS A STRIKING RESEMBLANCE TO TODAY’S GOSPEL.

THE TWO DISCIPLES TRAVELING ALONG THE EMMAUS ROAD HAD ONCE FOLLOWED JESUS WITH HOPE AND JOY. THEY TRULY BELIEVED HE WAS SENT BY GOD TO ESTABLISH GOD’S KINGDOM.

THEN CAME THE STORMY HOURS OF GOOD FRIDAY. ALL THEIR HOPES AND DREAMS GOT SMASHED INTO A THOUSAND PIECES. TOTALLY DISILLUSIONED, THEY LEFT JESUS IN AN UNMARKED TOMB AND RETURNED TO THEIR FORMER WAYS.

IT WAS AGAINST THIS BACKGROUND THAT THEY MET THE STRANGER ON THE EMMAUS ROAD ON EASTER SUNDAY MORNING.

THE DISCIPLES LISTENED TO HIM. THEY WATCHED HIM BREAK BREAD. AND SOMETHING MOVED THEM DEEPLY. THE STRANGER WAS NOT A STRANGER AT ALL. IT WAS JESUS. HE WAS ALIVE AND RISEN. AND HE WANTED TO BE WITH THEM.

ALMOST THE IDENTICAL THING HAPPENED TO THE BROTHERS ON THE COLORADO ROAD.

THERE WAS A TIME WHEN THEY FOLLOWED JESUS CLOSELY. THEY TRULY BELIEVED HE WAS THE SON OF GOD, SENT BY GOD TO REDEEM THE WORLD. THEY FELT HIS PEACE WHEN THEY RECEIVED HOLY COMMUNION.

THEN CAME THE STORMY DAYS OF ADOLESCENCE. ALL THEIR HOPES AND DREAMS GOT SMASHED INTO A THOUSAND PIECES. TOTALLY DISILLUSIONED, THEY LEFT JESUS BEHIND IN AN UNMARKED TOMB AND WENT THEIR OWN WAY.

IT WAS AGAINST THIS BACKGROUND THAT THEY MET THE STRANGER ON A COLORADO ROAD ONE RAINY SUNDAY MORNING. HE SPOKE TO THE BROTHERS ABOUT JESUS, NOT BY USING WORDS BUT BY HIS HEROIC EXAMPLE.

AND AS THEY LISTENED, THEIR HEARTS BEGAN TO BURN WITHIN THEM.

THEN DURING THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD IN THE CHURCH, THEY DISCOVERED THE JESUS THEY HAD LOST.

THE STORY OF THE DISCIPLES ON THE EMMAUS ROAD AND THE STORY OF THE BROTHERS ON THE COLORADO ROAD ARE NOT UNLIKE OUR OWN STORY.

WE TOO HAVE HAD STORMY PERIODS IN OUR LIVES WHEN OUR FAITH GOT SMASHED INTO A THOUSAND PIECES.

DURING THOSE STORMY PERIODS, PERHAPS WE SINNED AGAINST THE CHURCH. PERHAPS WE BECAME DISILLUSIONED WITH THE CHURCH. PERHAPS WE EVEN LEFT THE CHURCH.

BUT THEN ONE DAY WE MET SOMEONE – A STRANGER PERHAPS. AND IT WAS THROUGH THE STRANGER THAT WE FOUND JESUS AGAIN, IN THE MIDST OF HIS CHURCH, IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD.

AND SO TODAY’S GOSPEL CONTAINS AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR ALL OF US TODAY – ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE STILL SEARCHING FOR JESUS, OR FOR THOSE WHO HAVE LOST JESUS.

IF WE ARE TO FIND THE RISEN JESUS TODAY, IT WILL BE THE WAY THE DISCIPLES FOUND HIM ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS. IT WILL BE THE WAY PAUL FOUND HIM ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS. IT WILL BE THE WAY THE TWO BROTHERS FOUND HIM ON THE ROAD IN COLORADO.

WE WILL FIND HIM IN THE MIDST OF HIS CHURCH, IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD.

LORD JESUS, LOOK KINDLY ON THOSE WHO HAVE LEFT YOU BEHIND FOR DEAD IN SOME UNMARKED TOMB. COME TO THEM, AS YOU DID TO THE DISCIPLES ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS.

EXPLAIN THE SCRIPTURES TO THEM AGAIN. STIR UP IN THEM THE EMBERS OF FAITH THAT STILL SMOULDER IN THEIR HEARTS. SIT DOWN WITH THEM AT TABLE.

SHOW YOURSELF TO THEM AGAIN, IN THE MIDST OF YOUR CHURCH, IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD.