Today we read the words of St. Luke (24: 13-35) teaching us how Jesus appeared to two disciples who were walking away from Jerusalem towards the town of Emmaus. This third Sunday of Easter the reading is presented to us one more time. Please do not skip the Gospel readings below. I know some prefer not to read long passages of Scripture but this one is quite special because we are the disciples walking and it is Jesus who is instructing us there. Now, the Logos often talks to us personally revealing details of a specific text that we must know or need to apply. Read carefully and let Him instruct you in the same way that he instructed those two disciples two millennia ago. He is alive and He is talking to you personally.
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ (Luke 24:13-17)
No one knows to this day where exactly was Emmaus. Seven miles from Jerusalem places us in a circle about one mile past the distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Although scholars are working hard at it, we do not know for certain what Emmaus really means. I think this was divinely ordained intentionally. Emmaus is a destiny, the two disciples are any disciples at any time in history. Jesus had warned the disciples beforehand. Think of Him being in our midst. He is there and that is not simply a pious belief, that is one of the reasons He resurrected: to be with us.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’ (Matthew 18:20)
The disciples were supernaturally blind to Jesus’ identity. Jesus kindly descend to their level of understanding of the situation. He always seems to behave like the Sun, not appearing over the horizon to shine with full force but gently illuminating the day while gradually advancing on His path. Of course He knows what is happening, he knows it better than anyone in the entire planet but He feigns ignorance to let the disciples express themselves and organize their thoughts.
They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. (Luke 24:18-20)
The sadness of Cleopas and the other disciple (perhaps Mark?) is certainly deep. Jesus was much loved before the Crucifixion happened. The disciples were left surely with an overwhelming sense of irreparable loss. The death of a loved one is always devastating but how deep is the grief men are left with when Love Himself dies? They empty their hearts and tell the stranger the tragedy they have experienced. They were expecting the Kingdom, the Liberation of Israel and instead they received the dead body of their beloved Teacher. How profound is this! The Cross is the gate to the Kingdom and the Liberation from sin to Israel and the whole world but the disciples don’t understand it that way yet. They talk their grief to the Stranger. People that are deeply sad always have to talk to others about it. It is a human mechanism of survival. Christians who have the gift of listening are perhaps the best disciples of the Logos, the Word. “He was great” they say “but our religious and political leaders killed Him…” Those words show the deep wound left by Calvary: “Oh! if you would have seen Him, if you would have heard Him talk …” One can imagine their hearts trying to invoke Jesus trying to bring Him back to life with their words just like the Teacher used to do, calling Lazarus out of the cold tomb with a simple: “Lazarus, come forth!”
But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ (Luke 24:21-24)
The two men continue describing the events. They thought the redemption of Israel was near … and now “some women claim to have seen Him alive … The body is missing but we haven’t seen Him …” That finally elicits a response from the Stranger:
Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27)
This is one of the beautiful habits of Our Lord. The argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges, afflicted with congenital blindness said once (on occasion of being named Director of the National Library) “God has given me eight hundred thousand volumes … and blindness.” With the same sense of humor, Jesus declares His present glory to two men whom He has purposely made blind and cannot even recognize Him. And so it is with all of us: we see Him in a tiny wafer of bread but we can’t see the Bread of Life in there. Few have received that grace.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. (Luke 24:28-29)
How many times we imagine Him going away from us when He in reality is leading us, showing us the way our souls can grow. He never really leaves. Those are “mere love games” as Padre Pio used to say.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ at the same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:30-35)
The original meaning of the word “Mass” is “table” and here He is at the table with the two friends he has made on the road. They sense his sanctity and let Him bless the bread. That is when their eyes are opened. The Mass is the way God opens our eyes to the realities of Heaven. There we can see the effect of that experience in our hearts. The disciples were perhaps fleeing Jerusalem in fear but now they boldly return and there they find out soon that Jesus also has appeared to Peter.
The Church is travelling the long road of history. We have gone far from the days when Jesus preached in Jerusalem but He has walked with us. He has appeared to many of our leaders but also to humble men and women who were surprised by the joyful miracle of seeing Him. It may happen to anyone. It may happen to you as well.
What a beautiful, deep, and timely essay. It is so hard these days to escape despair as we watch the edifice that is Christendom collapse and seemingly die. You’re right, we are just like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, blind to His presence and to the hope that is tied to faith. We must pray that He will open our eyes soon so that we can rise from our sadness and set about the task of rebuilding His church.
LikeLiked by 1 person
The more I think about what the disciples experienced on the Road to Emmaus, the more I am convinced that the many prophetic facets of this passage refer to the ‘rest’ that the Church will experience after the Parousia. In the parable of the Good Samaritan one can easily see that the inn is the Church. In this particular part of the Gospel that deals with Jesus appearing to the disciples at Emmaus, we can see the same. This time the Church is a place where we stop to recover our strength. The meal that the disciples get is nothing less than the second Eucharist after the one they had received from Jesus during the Last Supper. A third Eucharistic meal will be given to them by the sea of Galilee after a night of fruitless fishing. The scene of the fruitless night of work repeats the first time they met Jesus by the sea. There Jesus instructs them to go “to the deep part of the lake” and the fishing —in spite of the unusual hour— is greater under the light of day than during the night. Now we are approaching the end of night. We have struggled for naught all night. When the day comes and the Sun rises we will meet the Master again. He will lead us one more time and show us where to cast the nets. That second iteration will be more glorious than the next. Have no fear for the damage done to the Church by the agents of the enemy. Even the longest night cannot extinguish the day. Castelletto is right: the rebuilding time is near, it is visible to us already if we only open our eyes. Ask the Master to do just that. He said to the blind man: “What do you want of me?” —”That you open my eyes, Lord” responded the man from his darkness. The blind man received the grace of light in the same manner that the Church will receive the grace of her own resurrection. The Morning Star is already up in La Salette, Lourdes, Fatima, Garabandal. That morning star is Mary Most Holy. Darkness can’t take that morning away from us.
Comments are closed.