The Emmaus Episode Reflects also Our own Condition
Dear brothers and sisters in the Risen Lord,
As we are celebrating the third Sunday of Easter, let us try to see in the light of the episode of the two wayfarers of Emmaus our own condition reflected.
The first two readings (from the Acts & First Letter of Peter) present to us the words of Peter. In his first letter he says: “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver and gold, but the precious blood of Christ, whom God raised from the dead “. It sounds as if to say: those who think they save their soul with their money are under terrible illusion, for salvation cannot be bought. It is a pure gift, to be accepted and translated into one’s life.
What is more fundamental is the Gospel of today (Luke 24, 13-35). Let us remember that on the day of the Resurrection, Jesus manifests himself early in the morning to Mary Magdalene and in the evening to the Apostles who were gathered together. In between these two moments is inserted the episode of the two disciples who, ignoring the resurrection, are on their way to Emmaus and do not hide their disappointment for the story of the One in whom they had placed their hopes which also ended. They share it also with the traveler who reaches them and walks beside them; the traveller then reminds them of the passages of Scripture relating to the awaited Messiah and shows how everything came to be true in Jesus. They still do not understand that their special traveling companion is the one whom they are talking about and he, after his crucifixion and death, is now alive. They recognize him only at Supper, when he repeats the following gestures and words that preceded his passion: “he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them“.
Here we can certainly note two important things taking place: first the Scripture and then the Bread broken and given as spiritual nourishment. Well, in the episode of Emmaus we find the salient features of the liturgy of the Word and of the liturgy of the Eucharist, that is, the Holy Mass, which he left to his friends to be celebrated everyday and forever. “Do this in memory of me,” he commanded, and since then no other command has ever been so regularly practised for the past two thousand years.
It may be puzzling to know how these two travellers immediately do not recognize the One whose disciples they also were, just like it happened to all those to whom Jesus manifested himself after being raised. With all evidence, the Risen One is the same as before, but not exactly the same as before. For example, he is not like Lazarus, who, after the burial, resumed his previous life, but later died like everyone else. The Risen One has a different aspect from the usual one. He suddenly appears and disappears, but he is not a ghost. He demonstrates his physicality by eating in front of everyone and letting himself to be touched, rather inviting Thomas to do it. It is the same as before, but not exactly the same as before: the total inexperience of a single fact does not allow us to define the difference, just as it did not allow those who saw it to recognize him immediately. In this way are noted the initial difficulties of the two on their way to Emmaus, and our interest in their unexpected adventure.
The interest also derives from the fact that, in its three phases, our own condition is well reflected with respect to the Risen One.
First phase: as for Christians of every epoch, Jesus walks also beside us and is present in the ways he chooses (just remember one of his sentences: “Whatever you have done to one of my brethren, you will have done it to me“), but then how often do we know how to recognize him?
Second phase: he recalled to them the Scriptures. Well, we all have a Bible at home – don’t we? But how much do we know it? We hear it read & explained during the Holy Mass, but how much attention do we pay to it? And yet, just as we look like the two disciples of Emmaus in the early stages of their meeting, so we can look like them in the third as well: we can recognize him in the breaking of Bread. “Take and eat: this is my body, given you in sacrifice“. The gestures & words renewed in every Eucharistic celebration manifest him, the Risen One, his desire to shower on us with that limitless love, demonstrated by sacrificing his human life for us and making us participate in his divine life.
Dear brethren, let us learn from the episode of the disciples of Emmaus by becoming more aware that we are not alone, for the Risen Lord always accompanies us. Let us read and reflect more on the Word of God, for it is a lamp unto our feet and light unto our path. Let us participate as often as possible in the Eucharistic celebration, for it is the source and summit of our Christian life. Therefore, let us raise our hearts and minds in gratitude to God the Father, to Jesus His Son and the Holy Spirit for the constant and unconditional love poured upon us all.
God bless us all!
Fr. Sagayaraj Devadoss