“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here. For previous Green Room entries, click here.
This morning’s Gospel reading is John 20:1–9:
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
This afternoon’s Gospel reading is Luke 24:13-35:
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.
The staff at Hot Air wishes a blessed and happy Easter and Passover to all of our readers!
With each year, I look forward to the Easter Triduum with more and more enthusiasm. This year, it hits home just a little more, after our pilgrimage to the Holy Land and our visits to the historical sites of the Passion and Resurrection. We walked along the Via Dolorosa, celebrated Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built above Golgotha and the tomb, visited Emmaus, Bethany, and the site of the upper room where the Last Supper took place. All during this pilgrimage, we had a very real sense of walking with the Lord.
Of course, we didn’t get the same sense of it that the two disciples had on the road to Emmaus in today’s afternoon Gospel. In the morning Gospel, Mary Magdalene finds the tomb empty and runs to get the soon-to-be Apostles. Peter and John run back to the tomb and confirm that Jesus’ body is gone, but they still did not understand what that meant — although they took hope in it, and believed.
The two disciples in Luke’s narrative still haven’t quite reached that state yet. They appear “downcast” and defeated, mourning over the loss of their teacher and friend, when they meet the stranger on the road to Emmaus. They do not recognize the risen Jesus, which can be puzzling to the rest of us. After all, they had walked with Jesus on many a road before then, and had last seen Him just a few days earlier. Why did it take them so long to realize He was among them?
One hint might come in the Gospel reading from the Easter Vigil, Matthew 28:1-10. Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” approach the tomb the first time to complete the burial preparations, and are stopped by an angel. As so often happens in angelic appearances, the two Marys are comforted with this exhortation — “Do not be afraid.” The manifestation of angels are not the cute Cupids of popular imagination, but strike awe and fear into human hearts, which almost always requires the beginning of the encounter to be comforting. This happened to Mary at the Annunciation, and to the shepherds in the field at Jesus’ birth, and even with Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration, among other such instances.
Curiously, it happens here again as well. Jesus appears to the two women after the angel’s announcement and also starts by comforting them, “Do not be afraid.” Part of that could be that the very act of resurrection could have stricken them with fear (and understandably so), but they were present for Lazarus’ resurrection less than two weeks before this takes place, and John records no such reaction of fear. The need for Jesus to comfort the women indicates that his resurrected and perfected state renders him much differently to human eyes, and that his power as the Son of God has been made manifest in his presence.
Yet “that very day,” Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus and the two disciples not only don’t see that power made manifest, but don’t even recognize Jesus at all. They had given up hope, even if they still loved their teacher and master and mourned his passing. Jesus keeps his two friends engaged without revealing His identity, drawing out their mourning and reinvigorating them with His teaching nonetheless. They become so excited by His interpretations that they invite Him to stay with them for dinner — and finally recognize His power and His identity in the breaking of the bread. Hope restored, Jesus then leaves them to continue His journey.
We all walk the road to Emmaus, especially at this time of year, mourning the loss of our Lord and yet burning in our hearts for His presence. We come together to break the bread and commune with Jesus. The Resurrection is the focus of Easter, but it’s the road to Emmaus that models our lives as Christians in the post-Resurrection world.
And for me, personally, I feel as though Emmaus models my entire faith journey in life. I have walked along the road of doubt and discouragement, shrugging my shoulders at hope as I rely only on limited understanding of the Word. As I have progressed, I have found my heart burning for more, and feeling His presence growing as I walk. That isn’t a stumble-free journey, of course. There are times when I have wandered off the path a bit, and there are times when I have felt myself approaching the journey as a tourist or as a study project rather than a pilgrimage. (Heck, even on my actual pilgrimage, I had to fight those impulses. You don’t want to know how many pictures I took.)
When I feel as though I have lost the path, or have lost my spiritual connection to it, two things sustain me and return me to the pilgrimage: the Word of God and the Eucharist. Sometimes, it’s difficult to recognize the presence of Christ along the way, but when that happens, I know where to find that burning desire in my heart. And thankfully, I have been blessed with wonderful traveling companions along the way that have helped to remind me to seek Him out, even when the path is rocky — no one more than my wife.
He is risen! I wish all of you a blessed journey along the road to Emmaus.