On The Road to Emmaus
Pastor’s Column 3rd Sunday of Easter April 30, 2017
“And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were presented from recognizing him.” (from Luke 24:13-35)
This haunting gospel sounds familiar to us on many levels, because it has within it many of the elements of the Mass! Luke is, in fact, describing not only what happened that first evening after the Resurrection, but what happened at an early Christian worship service. Let’s look at a few elements of the story and see if they aren’t familiar to us.
While the disciples are gathered and conversing, Jesus walks along with them. Didn’t Jesus tell us that whenever two or more are gathered in his name, he would be in our midst? This is the church gathered for Mass. Just as in this gospel, when we gather on Sunday in his name, many are downcast, many are happy, but Jesus is with us, though we cannot see him directly. He really does walk with us as we worship and enter into “conversation” with him.
Jesus explains the scriptures to the disciples. As the disciples walk along, Jesus interprets all the passages of scripture that are about him. Who among us would not want to listen in on this conversation! This is the Liturgy of the Word, the first part of Mass. In the same way, Jesus still speaks to us through the reading of scripture and (hopefully!) in the sermon we will hear the Holy Spirit with advice for our own lives.
Jesus breaks bread with the disciples. The disciples offer hospitality to the stranger as night approaches, and Jesus accepts. This is the offertory of the Mass. Notice the wording as Jesus breaks bread is exactly the same as the last supper and at the consecration: “he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them.” Sound familiar? This is the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the same prayers that were being said in the first century. Jesus then disappears from sight. Where has he gone? He is still there--He is now to be found in the Eucharist itself. He has disappeared into the bread.
The disciples rush back to Jerusalem. Having heard the good news that Jesus is alive, the disciples can’t wait to return, even though it is late and the distance is long! This is the sending at the end of Mass. In the same way, we are sent forth after hearing Jesus speak to us and receiving his Body and Blood to really be his disciples in the world. Alleluia!