Sunday, June 8, 2014


There is a particularly beautiful contemporary Easter hymn that we used to sing a lot at Saint Paul the Apostle in New York and that was prominently featured at the Installation Mass for the new President of the Paulist Fathers that we celebrated there two weeks ago. Its title In the Breaking of the Bread comes from the story of the Risen Jesus’ appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, which was the Gospel reading this year on the 3rd Sunday of Easter. The first two verses retell that story and what followed. The third verse brings us up to after the Ascension, to the story we just heard from the Acts of the Apostles about Pentecost:

But then we became afraid without him,
In the darkened room we stayed without him,
Waiting for the One he said that he would send.
Then the Spirit of the Lord came down upon us,
Filling us, changing us, giving us the strength to say,
We saw him!
Suddenly our eyes were opened,
And we knew he was alive!

A full seven weeks have now passed since Easter, since we first celebrated the Lord’s resurrection. The original Easter season that hymn sings about was a time of transition, in which the focus gradually shifted from what Jesus had done to what the disciples were going to do. It takes time to get people properly prepared for a major undertaking. So the Risen Lord took time to prepare his disciples for the task ahead, eventually empowering them with the gift of the Holy Spirit to continue Jesus’ life and work and take Jesus' story out into the world. That transition culminated on Pentecost, the story of which we just heard in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

And so the hymn continues:

We ran out into the street to tell them,
Everyone that we could meet, to tell them,
“God has raised him up and we have seen the Lord!”
We took bread as he had done and then we
Blessed it, broke it, offered it. In the breaking of the bread,
We saw him!
Suddenly our eyes were opened,
And we knew he was alive!

As I wrote in today’s Bulletin, Pentecost marks the transition from Easter to Ordinary Time – the time of fulfillment, the time of the Church, when the promise of the resurrection takes effect in ordinary life. Just as the new life promised by spring continues into summer, the new life promised by the Risen Christ continues in our world in his Church. At Pentecost we experience annually what we experience weekly - every week - with the transition from Sunday to Monday. From our Sunday celebration around the unleavened bread, which has become the body of our Risen Lord, we are sent forth, to renew the face of the earth as one body and one spirit in Christ, as the Risen Lord’s permanent presence in the ordinary bread of our daily lives in the world.

In that sense, Easter doesn’t end at Pentecost, anymore than Mass ends with the Dismissal. We do indeed depart, but we do so changed and energized – sent out in the power of the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth.

And so the hymn concludes:

In the breaking of the bread,
He is here with us again.
And we know he is alive!

Homily for Pentecost Sunday, Immaculate Conception Church, Knoxville, TN, June 8, 2014.

The hymn quoted is In the Breaking of the Bread by Michael Ward (WLP).  

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