Pastor’s Homily…. Hey fellas, you’re going the wrong way! It’s a statement nobody ever wants to hear or admit: you’re going the wrong way, or its companion question, do you know where you are going? Like when one spouse says that to the other in a car ride, even with GPS! It’s ok when we hear the question in the form of the 1975 hit theme song, “Mahogany,” Do You Know Where You’re Going To?” sung by Diana Ross in the movie by the same name. If you remember seeing the movie in the theatre you are at least age 60 or older! Hmmm, I was only 15 when I saw it at the Castor Theatre in Northeast Philly. But “that’s not important right now.” What IS important is that human emotion we all have of feeling or being lost and losing our way.
My mind now flashes back from the 1970’s to the 1960’s. No, this is not some Time Life music infomercial, with a host like Peabo Bryson trying to sell you some classic music box set. I remember the summer of 1966 walking amidst big crowds on the popular Wildwood Boardwalk, that’s right, the Jersey Shore where the “real” beaches that God made are located with lots of sand and plenty of room to spread out for social distancing, even then. Somehow, my mind wandered and suddenly I felt like the child Jesus getting lost at the festival in Jerusalem, losing my parents. Of course, Jesus being God had none of the anxiety that I experienced, only His parents did.
It was an upsetting experience being separated and lost from my family. Even though it happened when I was only 6, I can still remember hearing my name called over the public address system: “ there’s a little lost boy at the Boardwalk Information Center saying he is Father Mink and is looking for his parents!” Yes, even then I had eyes on being pastor in the Forty Acres someday. I was really frightened, and when my parents came for me, my mother handled it like the Philly mom she was, “pay attention next time and don’t do that again. No Mack’s pizza for you!” Ah, I wish it were, “Yesterday Once More.”
During the Sundays of the Easter Season, our Gospels focus on the appearances of the Risen Lord to his disciples who fail to recognize him each time. Were they that unintelligent? No, they were simply afraid, full of grief and lost. Thomas the Apostle refused to even consider last week that the Crucified Jesus could have ever survived such a horrible death. Upon touching His glorious wounds, a week later, Thomas proclaims the first declaration of Jesus’ divinity recorded in the Gospels, “My Lord and My God!” Only upon seeing and touching Jesus’ glorified body, is he no longer doubtful, full of grief, and lost. Earlier, during His ministry, Christ the Teacher tried to prepare his disciples for his suffering and death by telling them, “You know the way where I go.” And Thomas responds, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” To which Jesus responds, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
In this Sunday’s gospel we hear about another appearance of Jesus, no, not the one with Jesus appearing on the beach as a short-order cook making breakfast for the disciples. This is not a Mel’s diner story. Instead, Jesus appears to two lost, downtrodden and dejected disciples leaving Jerusalem and trudging back to Emmaus in their fraying tunics and dusty sandals having lost all hope, saying, “We had hoped He was the one who would set Israel free!” Jesus does not say “hey you are going the wrong way, are you lost? He simply asks what they are talking about on their way. Jesus listens to them, teaches them, comforts them, feeds them and finally, reveals Himself to them in the Breaking of the Bread.” They regain their sense of direction and turn around and don’t drown, in their sorrows. The two companions have new hope to go back to Jerusalem, with their hearts burning with the Word, announcing to their brothers how Jesus revealed himself to them and are now ready to join the company of witnesses who profess Jesus’s resurrection. Like Paul Harvey, now we know the rest of the story.In our present circumstances, surrounded by sickness, death and a paralysis of understandable fear, it is easy for us to feel lost and afraid, losing our own sense of direction and even our sense of hope. Like the scripture verse, we can call out with worry, “How long O Lord?” Or like Peter trying to walk on the water amidst stormy seas, we can yell in a panic, “Lord, save me!” But like those two disciples, Jesus walks with us on our dusty journey as a companion who teaches us with His Word, that leaves us with burning hearts and a presence that will never leave us, especially in hard times. We must keep our faith in the Risen Lord knowing that soon enough, we will have the ability not only to see and touch Him but also to powerfully receive Him in the Breaking of the Bread. This is the heart of our Catholic faith. The parish community of St. Ann’s continues to remain faithful and strong, hopeful in spirit longing to receive Jesus in the Eucharist again, partaking in adoring the elevation of the Sacred Host, and proclaiming all together, like Thomas, “My Lord and My God!”
Stay St. Ann’s Strong, until we meet again in the Breaking of the Bread. --Father Mink