April 30, 2017: Third Sunday of Easter
That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he 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.
Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread. (Luke 24:13-35)
Here is another Easter story where we can try to get into the feelings of Jesus and his disciples. Could the unnamed disciple be Mary, Cleopas’ wife who stood at the foot of the cross? The first paragraph underlines the gloom and despondency of the disciples; we are allowed to overhear the conversation.
Again they do not recognize Jesus when he comes along to walk with them. We hear Jesus ask, “What things?” Try to imagine his motivation, why does he not reveal himself? Maybe we get a hint by his reaction, “Oh how foolish you are! How slow to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” How did the disciples feel when this stranger calls them foolish? I am sure they were still puzzled by: “necessary that the Christ suffer” and “enter into his glory.”
Join them at table and notice Jesus breaking the bread and giving it to them. At what point does something in his manner say, “I am He; you’ve seen me do this before.”
Later we are given a clear description of their feelings as they walked with him and he explained the Scriptures to them. “Were not our hearts burning within us.” We can prayerfully join in their excitement as they run back to Jerusalem to tell the others.
The next time you are at Mass, take the moments of silence to go back to the story and set your heart burning within you as you hear the readings by listening to the spirit in your own heart explaining how these words affect your life. As you prepare for communion, and then after communion, take yourself back to the table where Jesus revealed himself in the breaking of the bread.