Stay with Us, Lord

Antonio, P. Pueyo
April 10, 2005
Third Sunday After Easter
Reproduced with Permission

One of the acts of Pope John Paul II in the last year of his papacy was to proclaim the Eucharistic Year from October 2004 to October 2005. He announced this by issuing his Apostolic Letter, "Mane Nobiscum Domine."

The title of the apostolic letter was taken from the words of the two disciples who invited the Lord at Emmaus, "Stay with us, Lord, for it is almost evening" (Lk. 24:29). This Sunday's gospel is about the risen Lord accompanying his disciples on the road to Emmaus. Along the way he explained the scriptures to them. They did not recognize Him, but they were so struck by His words, that they invited him in to have supper with them. Their eyes were finally opened when He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. The Lord celebrated the eucharist with them as He did at the Last Supper. They enjoyed the privilege of joining the Lord in the eucharistic meal because they invited Him in.

In my ministry as a priest the past twenty-nine years, I have heard this invitation so many times. Whenever we hold seminars in the barrios, or when there are fiestas, or even when just passing by, hospitable parishioners would come and say, "Stay with us." It could be an invitation for a meal or for a place to stay. It is considered a blessing when the priest enters a house. In our culture, the welcoming words are, "Tuloy po kayo!". We love to hear those words of welcome and hospitality.

Reading the scripture passage, I can't help but say, the Lord Jesus shares some of our oriental ways. When the hour is about time for lunch or dinner, and we are by somebody's house, we act as if we need to go further, or we have some other business to attend to. We do not want to embarrass the host, in case he is not ready. We wait to be invited in. More often than not, in the Philippines, the host says, "Stay with us." No matter if he has to butcher the remaining chicken or buy canned goods from the store. It is Filipino hospitality.

Do we invite the Lord in? Do we invite people into our life?

To invite somebody into our house is to be willing to break our routine and put up with some inconveniences for the sake of the guest. We have to do something extra. It means we bring out the special table wares. We cook special food. If the guest is staying, we bring out the seldom-used beddings, put up our guest's mosquito net, or give up our own comfortable bed. It means entertaining our guest and giving him our time. We have played this scene many times when relatives come to visit or take a vacation for a few days or when we ourselves visit some relatives. The most important gift that one receives during these occasions is the gift of time, good conversations, and attention. One feels that she is really important.

The invitation, "Stay with us," means you are somebody important to us. You mean so much to us. Come in, let us spend some time together.

Do we consider the Lord important in our life? When we let the Lord in, many things may change. There were many instances that the Lord was invited into the homes of people. He and his disciples were regular guests in the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Zaccheus, the tax collector, invited him into his house. He was present at the wedding in Cana. He entered Simon Peter's house. He had meals in the homes of those who were considered sinners and even got invited in the homes of some Pharisees. He went to the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. On these occasions, mostly meals, important things happen.

When our Lord Jesus Christ is invited in, something big happens. We might hesitate to invite the Lord into our life because we do not want anything to happen. We do not want change. We do not want the inconveniences involved in hosting the Lord. Or perhaps we are too embarrassed to let him in, as expressed by the Roman centurion, "Lord, I am not worthy that you come into my house" (Lk 7:6).

We may have to change our viewpoint. When we are hesitant to invite the Lord in, it is usually because we look at our own shortcomings, or lack of preparedness. We focus on ourselves. Let us rather focus on the Lord. What he wants to hear is, "Stay with us." Once we utter those words, miracles come into our life in ways we do not foresee; the water is turned into wine, the sinner is forgiven, the sick is healed, the dead is raised to life and our eyes are opened.

The Lord continues to stay with us. In a visible way, He comes to us in the Eucharist. In an invisible way, He is present in His life-giving spirit. He also comes dressed as a poor person, "Whatsoever you do the the least of my brothers, you do to me." One story told about Mother Teresa of Calcutta is about one novice of hers who had some difficulty in washing the wounds of a leper. Mother Teresa took her aside and asked her if she believes that the Sacred Host is the Body of Christ. "Yes," the sister said. Then she told her, think the same way when you wash the body of the leper.

As action starter, let us ask ourselves, "Am I willing to invite the Lord into my life? What is it that hinders me from doing so? What good news could happen if I do?"