The Third Sunday of Easter
The Road to Emmaus (A, B)
by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.
Last Sunday’s Gospel account was about the disciples locked up in the
Upper Room out of fear and Jesus’ appearance among them. Today’s Gospel account
is about other disciples dejectedly walking from Jerusalem to a nearby hamlet called Emmaus and
Jesus’ appearance among them also.
The thing that is curious to me is that in today’s account the important point revolves around
recognition of Jesus. Today we find this group of disciples at first failing
to recognize Jesus and in the end they recognize Him. What happened? Why did
they at first think He was a stranger and later come to realize Who He
What seems to be controlling deals with the question of how we see people. Obviously we’re not talking
here about simply seeing with our eyes, we’re talking, rather, about seeing with our
hearts. We’re dealing with seeing at deeper levels of knowing and understanding
That’s something we all know about, isn’t it? For instance, recall how you saw and understood your
parents when you were a child. Then think about how you saw your parents when you were a teenager. The way you saw them changed, didn’t
it? Now think about how you as an adult see and know and understand your parents. It’s hugely different, isn’t it.
What changed? Did they change, or did you change? I think we all immediately know it is we who changed,
not our parents. Their love, care, and concern
for us remained constant. It was our acceptance of their love, care, and
concern that went through different stages. It was the way we saw them that changed. And maybe the way we
see them even now is still changing.
Isn’t that likewise true with others whom you love? Isn’t it true with
your friends? I think it was also true with the Jesus’ disciples.
Huge events have a big impact on the way we see, know, and understand other people. It’s likely that
the parents, relatives, and friends of the young men and women in our Armed Forces see them now in a different light just a few years
after they’re out of high school. I daresay these kids’ parents saw them one way when they were in high school and now see them in a
wholly different way as they’re over in Iraq or Afghanistan serving our country in the war against terrorism.
Back in 1941 a number of people had some very strong views of President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, views that were quite negative. On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese
bombed Pearl Harbor, these people saw him quite differently, to say the least.
Huge events cause changes in the ways we see events, and they change the ways we see people. Husbands
see their wives quite differently after their first child is born, and wives likewise see their husbands in new ways.
The disciples walking on the road to Emmaus were talking about all of the stupendous events that had
occurred surrounding the crucifixion and death of Jesus
. They were terribly upset because they had thought Jesus of Nazareth
was the Messiah that God had sent, and look what had happened! They were
dazed and bewildered by it all; they were trying to make sense out of it all.
The Gospel account then takes us to the one thing that opened their eyes,
the event that allowed them to make all of the connections, the central piece in the puzzle that opened their eyes.
It was the breaking of the bread. The critical thing that occurred was when the “Stranger” Who was
among them took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them to eat. Suddenly their
eyes of recognition were opened. They no longer saw Him with just their
eyes, but they recognized Him with their hearts.
They saw Him with their newly awakened faith. They recognized
Him because they encountered Him in a totally different light. They saw
Him now in that event where He promised to be with them always.
Knowledge, you see, isn’t based simply on the acquisition of facts,
information, and date. True knowledge is seeing things based on wisdom and
understanding. Religious knowledge is seeing reality based on the
gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly His gifts of
wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.
Jesus comes to you and me in ways we least expect. Why is it that all of
the Saints and Seers who are a part of our Catholic Faith speak of God’s
coming to us in moments of surprise? We know that to be true, don’t we? We know of our own moments of surprise, our own moments of wonder
when suddenly we are aware of God’s presence to us, when, out of the blue, we hear what
He’s saying to us.
This is why we need times of reflection. This is why we need to get out of the 'busy-ness' of our days.
We need to turn off all of the noise that’s hurled at us in this modern world of ours. For it is in moments
of quiet reflection, when we’re out for a stroll, or when we’re in some quiet place where we’re allowed to reflect, that we begin to
“see” Jesus and come into a deeper awareness of His presence to us.
To deny that He is in fact present to us is to deny the testimony of
countless numbers of people who, down through 2,000 years of Christian history,
tell us of their similar “walks to Emmaus”, tell us of their similar moments of coming to recognize
Jesus and their encounters with Him.
May you soon have some time to make your own Emmaus time. And may you come to recognize
Him not only in the breaking of the bread but in all those other
moments where God tries to break in on our time and walk with us as we face all of the stupendous events
life hurls at us. For without His presence with us we certainly will feel depressed
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