Homily of the Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Joseph III YOUNAN
They recognized Him when they broke bread.
Dear brothers and sisters,
We listened to two of the most important personalities who brought the good news of salvation to us: Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles from Tarsus, and Luke the Evangelist from Antioch, Syria. These two cities were exposed a few days ago, as you know, to an earthquake, the largest in contemporary history. I visited stricken Aleppo a few days ago, and my brother John Boutros Moshe, the former Archbishop of Mosul, Iraq, accompanied me. I saw fear and anxiety in the faces of those who lived there, but how I was impressed and consoled by the faith and testimony of those we met, willing to live with sincere love and fraternal solidarity, among individuals and groups, with their different social classes, confessions and religion!
“Stay with us, for it is evening and the day is far spent.” (Luke)
All of us have read and heard this wonderful event, which Luke is unique in his narration: the appearance of the Lord Jesus, risen from the tomb, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. One of them is named Cleopa. They were walking, talking and arguing about what happened to Christ, their divine Master, who they were waiting for as a mighty messiah who would save his people from the occupation of strangers.
Without a doubt, they were afraid and anxious because they felt like a failure. And behold, the resurrected Jesus comes to them, accompanies them on the way, and explains to them the secret of His Passion, death and resurrection. At the Eucharistic table they knew Him, so they set off immediately, returning to Jerusalem, to announce to their brothers the joy of the Resurrection.
Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit, who accompanies the Church and fills her with his many gifts, makes them, rather, transforms them into living and unifying members of the mystical body of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who dispenses spiritual gifts, as he is today. He inspires, strengthens, and accompanies all of us, baptized men and women, clergy, priests and bishops, monks, nuns, deacons, religious men and women, to announce the Good News among our brothers and sisters with courage, truth, and peace. Because the grace of salvation is not exclusive to us, nor is it one of our privileges, but it is for the salvation of all who yearn to know Jesus and listen to Him. It is the true and courageous testimony that has distinguished the Church throughout the ages, despite human weaknesses and sins. The Holy Spirit’s gifts are not for personal pride in scientific or social achievements, and are not for distinction over others or for reward and dignity, but rather for service with meekness and humility according to the heart of the Lord.
“ How we did recognize him when he broke the bread!”
According to the Rite of our Syriac Church, we are preparing these days to enter the time of great Lent. Next Sunday, we celebrate the wedding in Cana of Galilee, which is a reminder to us that this liturgical season is not for fear, anxiety, and self-isolation, but rather a time for joy, hope, and openness to others, especially those who need our love.
How can we not know the Lord, the Redeemer, who rose from the empty tomb, while we continue to celebrate His redeeming sacrifice?