Luke 24: 13-35
Today, in this middle point of the first week of Easter celebration, we encounter Jesus along the road to a village named Emmaus. Where exactly was Emmaus is speculation but it was only seven miles from Jerusalem, according to Luke's compelling story. Along that journey are two disciples who find themselves in conversation as they walk. Not about the weather, or politics, or family life but rather "conversing and debating all the things that had occurred." Meaning all the events around the arrest and death of Jesus. Likewise, they heard rumors of his resurrection, his appearance to the Apostles.
As they journey along, the risen Lord joins them yet they do not recognize him. Jesus engages in conversation and then opens up the deeper meaning of the scriptures and the prophecies of the Messiah pointing to him. He explains that his death and resurrection was in the plan of God for salvation. He asks them directly: "Was it not necessary that the Christ (anointed one, Messiah) should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"
We pause here to ask, "How could they not recognize him? What about the sound of his voice or his mannerisms, or his face?" Perhaps they were not the closest of disciples, not the Apostles, yet knew the Apostles well. Maybe their grief and discussion was so passionate they failed to really pay much attention to the physical appearance of their now companion on the journey. Or maybe its a kind of literary device Luke is using to name the darkness we find in ourselves, our ignorance of the meaning of scripture and our need to open our eyes to understand more deeply what God has done in Jesus the Christ.
At any rate, they approach the village at sunset and invite Jesus to stay with them for the night. He agrees, then they break bread together and an amazing moment takes place:
"He (Jesus) took bread, said the blessing,
broke it and gave it to them. With that
their eyes were opened and they recognized him
but he vanished from their sight!"
Their hearts were burning with knowlege, insight, understanding and now a physical experience of the risen Christ, so they hurry back to Jerusalem where they find the Apostles relating to them: "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon." These two companions agree and then relate to the twelve what happened to them and how they came to know him "In the breaking of bread."
As in other parts of his Gospel, Luke brilliantly tells the story with passion and pulls us in to the action and the encounter. But, I think much more is here than a memory. The Sacrifice of the Mass is essentially two parts: Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. There we come to know the Lord more deeply as we hear the scriptures proclaimed and reflect on them. Then that same Lord comes to us under the signs of bread and wine and we come to encounter him "in the breaking of bread."
Luke's beautiful story of the Road to Emmaus is so Eucharistic in it theme and provides us a visual to apply in our own experience of coming to know and recognize the risen Christ among us. In his Word, in his Sacrament, in the body of believers the risen Christ is present and calls all of us to hurry back to proclaim who we have seen and heard in our midst so that others may come to know him as well.
Walk your road in faith and with an open heart and mind. Christ will accompany us this Easter season.