On the road to Emmaus

Easter is a fifty-day festival, beginning with Easter Sunday and ending with the feast of Pentecost. All during this time, the Church rejoices in the Good News that Jesus has risen from the dead and proclaims it, not only as a past event, but also as Jesus living among us in the present.

In his Gospel reading for this Sunday, Luke tells the story of the two disciples of Jesus, probably husband and wife, on the road to Emmaus. They were returning to their home the first day of the week after the death and burial of Jesus.

As they walked along, they talked about what had happened to their friend in Jerusalem. In the course of their lively exchange, Jesus approached them and began to walk along with them. (Lk 24:15 ) But the disciples did not recognize him. They thought that he was another pilgrim who had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover and was now returning to his home.

 The disciples were sad and dejected from all that had happened to their friend and teacher in Jerusalem. They were hoping that Jesus was the one who would set Israel free (Lk 24:21) from the occupation and oppression of the Roman army. However, their hopes vanished with the death of Jesus on the cross.

Jesus gently chided them for their lack of understanding of all that the prophets had announced concerning the Messiah and for their lack of faith. What little sense you have! How slow you are to believe all that the prophets have announced! Did not the Messiah have to undergo all this so as to enter into his glory? Then, he interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to him. (Lk 24:25-27)

By now they were near the village to which they were going, and Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they pressed him: “Stay with us. It is nearly evening—the day is practically over.” So Jesus went in to stay with them. (Lk 24:29)

Though their understanding of the Scriptures was poor and their faith weak, as Jesus said, nevertheless their concern for the stranger and their sense of hospitality were great. Without knowing it, they received Jesus into their home and to their table.

When Jesus seated himself with them to eat, he took bread, pronounced the blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him; thereupon he vanished from their sight. (Lk 24:30-31)

The Risen Christ walks also with us, unrecognized. He makes himself present in members of our family and community, and under the guise of the stranger and the person in need.

When we read the Bible or listen to the Word of God read at mass or hear God speaking to us through the mouths of our friends and neighbors, Jesus helps us to interpret and understand what God is telling us at that moment. Sometimes, as happened to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we also feel our hearts burning inside us when Jesus makes known to us the Word of God.

Jesus lives and is present among us in the breaking of bread. He is present with families in their homes, especially when they gather around the dining room table and break bread together.

Likewise, Jesus is present in a special way when the Christian community gathers around the table of the Eucharist to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. In the moment of the breaking of the Bread, the community is overwhelmed with joy upon recognizing Jesus risen from the dead and with the realization that Jesus lives and is the life-giving force in this celebrating Eucharistic community.