Our Scripture passage for this Sunday comes from the Gospel of Luke 24:13–35. In this passage, we read about the two disciples’ journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus and of how Jesus accompanies them and reveals Himself to them. This passage offers us several points for reflection to help us recognize and respond to the presence of the Risen Christ in our midst.
The first thing to note is that Jesus walks with the two disciples even as they are going in the wrong direction and walking away from the others in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Jesus accompanies them and listens to their story. They speak of their sadness at having lost a friend, their disappointment that things didn’t turn out the way they had hoped, and their frustration that difficulties seem to continue, such as the news of the empty tomb. To them, everything was bad news, and they could not see the presence of God in the midst of such a terrible situation. These negative and erroneous perceptions caused the disciples to walk away from the others and pursue the wrong path. It is the companionship of Jesus that gained their trust and allowed them to be open to His Word. Had Jesus started to correct them or reprimand them immediately, they would not have listened to Him. Rather, Jesus first shows them that He is a friend who cares for them, and because of that the disciples will listen to what the Lord has to say. This dynamic is an important lesson for us as a Church. Oftentimes we see people going in the wrong direction because of tragedies, frustrations, misunderstandings or disappointments. Sometimes people pursue the wrong direction just out of human weakness. Whatever the reason, our response should be modeled on that of Jesus who shows us the importance of being a compassionate friend first and a challenging friend second. Rather than wait for the disciples to return to Jerusalem on their own, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who goes after the lost sheep by seeking out these two disciples. Jesus is present in us and through us when we become instruments of the Lord’s mercy reaching out toward those going down the wrong path. When have you gone down the wrong path in your life? What negative experiences led you to do that?Who befriended you and helped you see things from a new perspective that made you want to be faithful?What are some of the wrong paths that you see people pursue today?What are your common responses when you see people going in the wrong direction?How can a faith community better practice the mercy of Jesus who seeks out the lost?When have you relied on the presence of the Christian community to help keep you on the right path?One of the truths of this scene is that we experience the hidden presence of the Risen Christ in the familiar presence of one another (the Christian community). When have you experienced the presence of Christ acting through someone else and touching your life?
After Jesus has accompanied them for a time and listened to their story, He could then speak to them about the Scriptures and help them understand the necessity that the Messiah should suffer and die so as to enter into His glory. Suddenly, the disciples were able to see that the events of Calvary were not a sign of God’s absence but rather the very fulfillment of God’s promises. Indeed, God was present on Calvary after all. The empty tomb was not the tragedy of a stolen body but rather the good news of the resurrection. What the disciples thought was bad news has now become good news because they are able to understand the Scriptures through the lens of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It all made sense to them for the first time. Still, this profound understanding of Scripture and conceptual grasp of God’s will was not enough to change their journey. They still continued travelling away from Jerusalem and going in the wrong direction. This section of the passage does tell us that the transformation of our intellect through the informed and interpreted Word of God in Scripture is an important step in the conversion process. We need help to see the events of our lives from God’s perspective as well. The Scriptures offer us profound insights into how God has revealed Himself in history and acted in the lives of ordinary people. These insights speak to us. By properly understanding God’s action in the life of Jesus we can correct our false assumptions and mistaken perspectives. The change of a person’s mind is commonly called the process of repentance (Greek metanoia
). This process takes time as we confront the many false beliefs that are communicated to us by a secular culture. Sometimes, too, we develop our own false beliefs because of insufficient or ineffective faith formation. Mature disciples are self-leaders who seek to understand God’s will through the Scriptures and other sources of revelation including personal prayer, the teaching of the Church, and the witness of the Saints. When has Scripture helped you to re-interpret an experience in your life?What has helped you understand the Scriptures in a personal and meaningful way?As disciples, it is important for us to know the Word of God so we can benefit from other people’s experience of God’s saving and revealing love. What resources exist to help you develop a deeper understanding of the Scriptures?Jesus did not tell the disciples anything from Scripture they did not already know. Rather, what Jesus did was help them interpret it through the lens of His death and resurrection. What are the various false lenses we can use to interpret Scripture that lead us to an incorrect interpretation such as the disciples previously had?One of the truths of this scene is that we can experience the Risen Christ speaking to us in the Scriptures. When have you experienced the enlightening voice of Christ speaking to you through the Scriptures?
Finally, when they arrive at Emmaus, they invite Jesus to be their guest, but the Lord doesn’t remain the “guest” of their lives for very long. Rather, at the meal Jesus reveals Himself as the one who is really the host of their journey. We see this self-revelation in the action of giving the bread, since the one who distributed the food at the table was always the host. By deferring this role to Jesus, the disciples were finally allowing Him to occupy His proper place as the master of their lives rather than their guest. Additionally, as they sit at table Jesus reveals something to them when He takes, blesses, breaks, and gives bread to them. Those are the verbs of the Eucharist and are used in the letters of Paul (1 Cor 10:16 and 1 Cor 11:23–24) and the other gospel accounts to describe the action of Jesus at the Last Supper (Mt 26:26–28, Mk 14:22–24, and Lk 22:17–19) and in the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Lk 9:16). It is the revelation of Jesus in the Eucharist that opened their eyes and revealed the living presence of the Lord in their midst. It was also their realization of the living presence of Jesus that changed their lives and journey so that they no longer pursued the wrong direction but rather returned to Jerusalem. It’s significant that mere knowledge did not change their lives, but the newfound relationship and personal encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist did bring about this change. The proper term for a change of life is conversion, which literally means “to turn around or change direction” (Greek epistrephein)
. When we realize, acknowledge, and receive the living presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, then it is meant to be a life-changing moment for us as well. It is always a moment of conversion when we realize the need to live our lives in communion with God whom we have received and of whose presence we have become a living tabernacle. It is always a moment of relationship, adoration, and reverence when we humbly approach the Lord who has entrusted Himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament. It is a moment of surrender as we freely change roles and allow the Lord to be the Host, and we become the guests in His presence. The Word of God in Scripture may prepare us for this moment of conversion through the process of repentance, yet there is a superior grace in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist that is meant to effect a lasting change in how we live. Saint Paul wrote poignantly of the necessary conversion that must take place in every disciple who shared in the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus (cf. 1 Cor 10 and 11). This Eucharistic conversion makes the assembly go from being a mere human congregation to become Christ’s Church. The Eucharist is an intimate experience with universal repercussions.
After Mass, we leave the assembly with the firm conviction that the same sanctifying action that changed the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus can transform, through us, every person and every reality we encounter. Have you ever seen the bumper stickers that say, “If God is your co-pilot, then you need to change seats”? That is very much what happened when the disciples sat down to dinner with Jesus: they willingly traded places with the Lord. The disciples experienced so many graces when they shared that meal with the Lord and recognized Him in the Eucharist. These graces include revelation, consolation, adoration, conversion, and companionship. What are some of the graces you have experienced through the Eucharist?When have you changed places with the Lord so as to consciously allow Him to be the pilot and you to become the co-pilot of your life?The disciples only realized in hindsight how Jesus was accompanying them and speaking to them on the Way. When have you realized the presence of God in your life through hindsight despite being blind to it in the moment?One of the truths of this scene is that we experience the Risen Christ present to us in a distinctive way in the Eucharist. When have you experienced the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist in such a way that it changed your life?
This account of the disciples’ journey to Emmaus is found only in Luke’s Gospel. Luke uses it to address one of the primary concerns of his community: namely, how to experience the Risen Christ while we are on our Christian “Way”. This passage is not just about two disciples and their own personal experience. Rather, it is meant to speak to all of us in our experience as a Church. The early Christians were called “Followers of the Way” and so it is important that Luke tells us multiple times that these things happened to the two disciples while they are on their “Way” (Lk 24:32 and Lk 24:35) (note: some translations use the word “road” but it should be more properly translated as “Way”). The Risen Christ is with us, too, in the community of the faithful who surround us (Church), in the Scriptures proclaimed to us (Liturgy of the Word), and in the “Breaking of the Bread” offered to us as food for the journey (Liturgy of the Eucharist). With the eyes of faith, we will see the presence of Jesus in the present, and through that faithful awareness we will be able to keep going in the right direction while encouraging one another to do the same. How have you experienced Jesus present to you on your Christian “Way”?How does the story of Emmaus change your understanding of the Mass?How does the relationship between repentance and conversion as described in this passage inspire and challenge your discipleship?
R. Cantalamessa, The Eucharist, Our Sanctification,
Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1995, p. 16.