Sunday reflection: Luke 24:13-35
posted at 10:01 am on May 4, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
“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 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.
This passage may be a little more familiar than usual; we saw this same reading a couple of weeks ago at Easter. Today on the third Sunday of Easter, I’m taking a few days off to spend a little time with family, so I’ll just offer a few thoughts — on the road, as it were.
As I noted at Easter, we are all “on the road to Emmaus,” and all similarly preoccupied with our own woes in this world to see clearly to salvation at most times. Even when the answer is directly in front of me, I have trouble seeing it because I’m looking for a different answer — one within my experience, and one that I can assign within the taxonomy of my own reason, intellect, and will. This reminds me of a scene from the film Bruce Almighty, where the title character is imploring God to send him a sign … while driving behind a truck filled with STOP and WRONG WAY road signs.
This passage tells us one way in which we can find the voice of God. The two disciples on the road walk with the stranger and spend the time telling him of their tragic week in Jerusalem. They are trying to fill the empty space with their own voices, and for very understandable reasons — they are stricken with grief, loss, and incomprehension. Even though the sign of all signs has been related to them — the empty tomb — it doesn’t fit within their human reason and comprehension. But they do not begin to achieve understanding until they listen rather than talk, and reflect rather than lament.
Jesus appears to the two disciples in their grief to allow them to lean on him, but also to explain salvation history in order to increase their comprehension. In our Easter Vigil Mass, we also walk through salvation history through the readings of Scripture. This is the context which Jesus gives the two disciples after they quiet themselves and open up to hearing the Word of God — even though they are not quite aware that this is what is happening until their eyes are finally opened in the breaking of the bread.
More times than I’d like to admit, I’ve been the Bruce in my life. I’ve loudly demanded that God show Himself to me, rather than quiet myself to commune with Him through the Holy Spirit. I’ve been on the road, petulantly insisting on signs while ignoring His voice within me attempting to provide me with guidance. Yesterday’s reading from John 14 offered a related look at the same phenomenon, when Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father and that would be good enough for them to believe — after years of being on the road with Jesus. Jesus replied, “How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” Philip wanted Jesus and the Father to fit into his own life, rather than fit himself into an effective communion with God.
We want the shortcuts to faith, and we want shortcuts to certainty that fit within our own limited human understanding of the world. All of that bluster puts barriers between us and the Holy Spirit. If we want to understand salvation and invite God to speak to us, we need to stop talking and start listening.