The Road to Emmaus, Zünd 1877, Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Click here to read today’s Sunday Mass Readings.

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?”    Luke 24:32.

Click on words highlighted in red for further information.

At the beginning of the Acts of the the Apostles, not one of today’s readings, it says the risen Lord stated loudly and clearly to his followers “not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the father…” (Acts 1:4). Pretty clear wouldn’t you say? In today’s gospel we have possibly the source of Jesus’ instruction. Two of his followers had done exactly that. They fled Jerusalem to make their way to Emmaus just days after his brutal death. Clearly they were running away, probably hoping to avoid what had happened to Jesus, as they were his followers. How do we know that? Because they recognized him in the breaking of the bread, when he vanished from their sight. And that was enough for them to return to the city and tell everyone about their experience with the risen Lord. They had in a sense abandoned the call of the Lord, but the Lord himself came running after them! There is a universal message for all of us there, isn’t there? “The Hound of Heaven” might be an appropriate thought for those of us who have stumbled and perhaps fallen because of weakness or fear or addiction or whatever has caused us to run from the source of life and love. Yes, following the Lord has its challenges, no question, but the flip side of that is peace, love and the satisfaction that the Lord walks with us, guiding us and picking us up when we do fall. Today’s first reading shows a similar rejection of fear and a declaration of what the Lord’s message is all about. Peter, the leader of the apostles,  is standing and declaring his belief in the Lord as Israel’s Messiah, the very charge which brought disaster upon Jesus. Yet Peter is proclaiming this to anyone who would listen to him! This is moments after the Holy Spirit had descended upon Jesus’ followers, Pentecost as we call it. Today’s second reading is a look at the source of the power that comes to us if we believe in the Lord and obey his message.

The Supper at Emmaus, Rembrandt 1648, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.

Zünd’s painting of the countryside on the way to Emmaus, seen at the top of this page, is how he envisioned it, and is possibly similar to the real way to Emmaus today. It was a town which vanished from history but may have been rediscovered recently, north west of Jerusalem. But what is clear is that two of Jesus’ disciples were getting out of town! They might possibly have witnessed, from a distance of course, the torture, humiliation and death of the man they had been following and who, they thought, had offered them a glorious promise of eternal happiness and contentment. What had happened to him must have looked like the end of everything he stood for and taught. That’s something we could all appreciate I think. The resurrection changed it all. It was then that all he said and did began to make sense and become the foundation of their, and our, lives. Without the resurrection there would be no Christianity. With the resurrection there is a real hope for everything that Jesus taught us, because he conquered even death, the ultimate enemy. And note the language of today’s gospel story:

And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.

We would, all of us, now expect the words:

take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body,
which will be given up for you.

But our friends in Emmaus did not hear that; they experienced it literally, for the Lord sat with them at table, yet vanished from their sight, leaving the bread he had broken for them. Clearly, therefore, they were present at the first eucharist in the history of the church after the Last Supper. Hence when we are present at Mass, we too are at Emmaus, at the Last Supper, and are with the Lord present at his table as he promised. They did the right thing immediately after, returning to Jerusalem to pick up their cross and begin a life of hope, strength and peace in the Lord. And there lies the message for us all today, and every day.

Homilies and Reflections from a Catholic Deacon.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Tuesday.

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