Are you still walking to Emmaus? Wednesday within Easter Octave – Acts 3:1-10/ Luke 24:13-35
The Gospel of Luke begins with the women at the tomb and an Easter proclamation by the angels which ironically began with a ‘chastisement’. The women have come to the tomb with spices. Yes, they love the Lord, loved him enough to bring spices to embalm a dead body. Yet all along Jesus said he would rise again and the women had not understood or believed. The angel must have been a bit cross when he said, “why do you look for the living among the dead?” What is interesting is that unlike the other Gospels, the women have not encountered the risen Christ in the flesh, they are simply told he is risen; they just have the word of the angel and they believe.
While in all the other Gospels it is Christ who appears first to the Mary Magdalene or the women, here in the Gospel of Luke Christ does not appear to them first but rather to two disciples on the road Emmaus. It’s a bit ironic when you come to think about it because the Gospel of Luke is always touted as the Gospel for women.
In any case, these men are certainly not models of faith. Hardly had Easter Sunday dawned than these two disciples folded their tents. They were heading presumably home to Emmaus. We are told it was a seven-mile journey by foot. While this was not a long journey it was certainly a burdensome one. Some walks are longer than others not because of the miles we have to traverse but the burden we carry.
Like it or not, these two disciples seemed to have abandoned the cause if not lost their way. So lost were they that their paths took them in the direction of Emmaus which was West of Jerusalem, the path of the setting sun. In many ways Jesus did not meet ‘their expectations,’ for they say, “OUR hope was that he was the one to redeem Israel.” (Verse 21). The disciples reflect many men and women of faith whose hope is lost because their expectations from Jesus are not met. Now as they walked away, the disciples begin discussing or as the Greek word, ‘ antiballette’ suggests, they were ‘putting together’ the pieces as one would do in a forensic investigation.
Jesus has a habit of interrupting our lives and for good reason! “What are you discussing?” His simple question was met with sarcasm, “are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” Interestingly and unlike many of us on Twitter, Jesus does not take the bait but rather begins a very therapeutic discussion which ironically begins by calling out the disciples as foolish. It is not a great way to put your point across or begin presenting your point of view but oddly ‘foolish’ worked.
So enamoured were they by this stranger and his teaching that “urged him strongly” to ‘stay with them; to abide with them.’ The Greek translation of these words “urged him strongly” translates as compels or ‘to twist one’s arms.’ Jesus was really playing it hard to get! Yet they urged him strongly because his words caused their ‘hearts to burn with in.’ The words of Jesus are addictive if we but listen to it. The words of Jesus are addictive if but preachers break his word.
Having prevailed upon Jesus to stay, they settle down to a meal…it seems Jesus truly ate his way through the Gospels. Unknown to them they are making history, sitting down to the first meal with Jesus after his resurrection. He breaks the bread having already broken the word. Notice that the Liturgy at Mass follows this pattern. The word is broken first at the ‘table of the word’ and then the bread is broken at the ‘table of the bread’.
At every Mass we are fed from two tables; we are nourished in our heart and in our bodies. So, you can’t stroll into Mass after the readings and just be fed with his body; it’s an incomplete feeding. We are nourished to nourish others. Note, having broken the bread, Jesus vanishes creating space for us to do what ought to happen naturally; for us to go out and proclaim what we have experienced and received.
The disciples do not wait for their retirement to go out and become evangelist. The hour of their conversion was the hour of their proclamation. That same hour they turned to Jerusalem, back in the direction of the East, back in the direction of the rising sun! This time they are not downcast, this time there is no debate or dissection of the events. This time there is faith, there is clarity, there is certainly; they make known to the disciples what had happened at the breaking of the bread.
Each day at Mass, the word and the bread is broken. The mass ends with the words, “the mass is ended, go and proclaim the Gospel.” Where do our feet take us after mass? To Jerusalem or to Emmaus?