“While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:15-16).
Have you ever felt disappointed before? Did you ever engage in some business or try to learn a new skill or join a particular society or group in the church only for your expectations to be dashed? Have you had serious thoughts about leaving the church or even abandoning the faith altogether? Do you feel the need to return to your old ways (of sin) perhaps because of scandal, hurt or betrayal? Are you sick and tired of being a disciple of Jesus Christ? Has life treated you so unfairly that you feel God is no longer the solution? Perhaps you are already on your way to Emmaus. This was the situation of the two disciples in our Gospel passage today. As we reflect on their story, we discover how it plays out in our own story today and the lessons we can learn from it.
Jesus Understands Your Plight. He Never Abandons You.
In our moments of pain and confusion, when we think prayer is useless and we feel like giving up completely, God, in His love for us, never abandons us. As our Psalmist today sings: “You will show me the path of life.” By joining these two disciples on their way to Emmaus, Jesus displayed His kindness as the Good Shepherd who abandons the ninety-nine in search of the one lost. (Cf. Luke 15:4).
Just as Jesus came to these two disciples, Jesus continues to visit us in different ways. Luke tells us that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Haven’t you encountered strangers who turned out to be Angels? Can you recall an experience when someone from nowhere came to your rescue or said something to you that saved your life and to this day, you cannot tell who that person was? Remember the story of Tobit how God sent the Archangel Raphael to bring an end to his tears and that of Sarah? The book of Hebrews admonishes us saying: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2). On the other hand, we too can become Angels to persons in need if only we refrain from selfishness and allow God use us.
There is Danger in Misunderstanding the Scriptures.
When Jesus joined them, He sought to find out what exactly was their problem and in their explanation, they said: “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth…” meaning that they were yet to recognize that Jesus is God. Furthermore, they said: “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel…” And so, even though they were aware of Jesus’ resurrection, it didn’t make any meaning to them since Israel remained a Roman colony. These disciples were disappointed because they couldn’t reconcile what had happened with prophecies in the Scriptures such as Jeremiah 23:5-6, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.” Jesus said to them: “O foolish men… was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer…?”
And beginning with Moses, and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Unlike these disciples, Peter displayed the depth of his understanding of the Scriptures in our first reading today wherein he noted how a statement of David was fulfilled in Jesus Christ because David died but Jesus could not be held by death. Dear friends, it is one thing to know what the Scriptures say but a different thing altogether to understand it. For instance, in this time of the pandemic, some of us Christians cannot reconcile our suffering today with the promises in the Scriptures such as Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory.” But did God say we shall never suffer?
The Best Way to Study the Scriptures is to Use the Pattern of Jesus.
Another important lesson we learn from Jesus’ response to these two disciples is that Jesus began with the Old Testament and gradually moved into the New Testament. Be careful of taking portions of the Bible out of context or treating them as though they are totally unconnected to the whole. Bear in mind that Jesus Christ is at the very heart of the Bible such that while the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New, the New Testament is revealed in the Old. We make a great mistake when we assume that the Old Testament is no longer relevant or that all we need is the New Testament. This is because without the old, we cannot understand the new and if we must grasp the inner meaning of the language of the Bible, we must try to place ourselves in the shoes of its original audience.
Above all, we can only get the message of the Bible with a heart full of love. It is sad to see Christians today argue and fight over the Bible with each trying to prove the other wrong by all means. This is what happens when we allow hatred becloud our hearts; we start quoting the Bible like Satan did while tempting Jesus.
Every Mass is an Emmaus Experience.
What Jesus did for the disciples is exactly what happens at the Holy Mass. First, Jesus opened the Scriptures to them and taught them everything about himself; how it was necessary for him to suffer, how he had not come to struggle for earthly kingdoms but to defeat death itself. Secondly, Jesus proceeded to give them His body and blood at the breaking of the bread. This was when their eyes were opened to recognise Jesus. You see, the Mass is in two parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. In the Liturgy of the Word, Jesus speaks to us in the readings and at the homily. Our hearts burn within us and with that frame of mind, we proceed to the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist where we receive His Body and Blood. When we pay full attention at Mass, we are able to recognize Jesus and our eyes are open to His real presence with us.
Furthermore, every Mass ends with “in te Missa est” meaning: “Go forth and proclaim the Good News.” Like these disciples who couldn’t wait till the following day but found their way back to Jerusalem that same hour. Every time we attend Mass, we are called upon to go out and spread the message to the whole world joyfully. It is quite painful that we cannot gather physically to celebrate the Mass, but at least we are able to participate in it electronically. Even more painful is that we can only receive Jesus spiritually and we are not able to leave our homes to spread the message like these two disciples. It is my prayer that this pandemic will help to deepen our longing and appreciation of the Mass which we sometimes take for granted. That notwithstanding, God has provided us with the means of technology to reach more people than we could ever do physically. Let us use our social media handles to the fullest in spreading the Good news of Jesus Christ. As Peter explains in both our first and second reading, the resurrection of Jesus is the essence of our faith. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, come into my heart and speak your word as you did to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Amen. Year A. Bible Study: Acts 2:14-33, Psalm 16, 1st Peter 1:17-21 and Luke 24:13-35).