Third Sunday of Easter
Emmaus might as well be Brigadoon. We hear of it in this one story—and it’s only in Luke—and then it disappears. The journey to Emmaus is one of the most beloved stories about Jesus, and yet the town is probably “mythical” in the truest sense. Like so much of life, this story is about the journey, not the destination. Running away from Jerusalem and their fears, probably going home in disillusionment, two of Jesus’ disciples encounter a stranger on the road who, like a rabbi, is able to help them understand their experiences using his deep knowledge of scripture. Later, sharing a meal with him, they recognized the stranger as Jesus, and they return to Jerusalem to tell the others. How like our Mass—we hear the scriptures and an explanation of them, we share a meal, and then we go out to tell the good news.
Imagine meeting a stranger, a fellow traveler, who butts into the conversation you’re having with your friend. The two disciples in today’s Gospel are heading to Emmaus, seven miles away from Jerusalem, heartbroken and disillusioned. It’s the day of Jesus’ resurrection, but no one knew it when these two set out on their journey, maybe going home to resume their pre-Jesus lives because it seemed as if everything was over.
In the middle of trying to make sense of the tragedy, some eavesdropping guy asks them about their troubles. After telling their story, the disciples are amazed to find this stranger able to piece together the fragments of the broken image of their master using scripture as the glue. Then it happens—at dinner they recognize Jesus in the breaking of bread, just before he vanishes. With their hearts burning with love and inspiration, they run back to Jerusalem—at night—to tell the others their new story.
The stranger in this story who turns out to be Jesus is reminiscent of the Gospel images of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He seeks out his “lost sheep” who have strayed from the faith community, and the experience of the risen Lord transforms them into perhaps the very first evangelists, sharing their Good News with their friends back in Jerusalem.
Are we transformed by the time we leave Mass? We should be! Our hearts should be burning within us from our experience of Jesus in word and sacrament. Yet how often life breaks our heart and clouds our mind! We stumble toward our own Emmaus, unaware that Jesus is with us. We are privileged to experience Jesus in every Eucharist through the breaking open of scripture and by the breaking of the bread. Like the disciples of the story, that transforming experience can compel us to go forth and tell everyone the Good News.
Today’s Readings: Acts 2:14, 22–33; Ps 16:1–2, 5, 7–8, 9–10, 11; 1 Pt 1:17–21; Lk 24:13–35