The Gospel is from St. Luke 24:13-35. It is the first day of the week after the great Jewish feast of the Passover and Jerusalem is trying to return to its normal routine. The shop keepers count their profits and the Temple priests congratulate themselves because they were able to kill the ‘Galilean’. For the disciples and those who were ‘foreigners’ in Jerusalem, it is time to start to return to their own homes and their normal lives.
Curtains were closed and lights were dimmed not only due to the celebration of Jerusalem’s solemn festival but also because everyone had hope that the man Jesus ‘would be the One to redeem Israel’ (Lk 24:21). The two disciples from Emmaus are to be found, along their journey, talking to ‘Jesus in person’, ‘but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him’ (Lk 24:16).
Why did the Lord not tell the disciples straight away who He was? Indeed, in the dialogue that the liturgy presents to us today, it almost seems that Jesus did all He could to avoid revealing His true identity. Firstly, He pretended not to know what Cleopas and his companion were discussing and then He went on to ‘explain to them the passages throughout scriptures that were about Himself’ (Lk 24:27) but without making direct reference to Himself.
At the end of the journey, ‘He made to go on’ (Lk 24:28). Jesus didn’t want to play games with His disciples, but He sought to educate their hearts, and also ours, so that we won’t be ‘slow’! In fact, when faced with the Lord’s Presence, we find that the heart quickly ‘burns’ upon hearing His words as we are grateful of the fact that we were freed not by ‘gold and silver but by the precious blood of Christ’ who is the ‘blameless and spotless’ lamb (Cfr. 1 Pet 1:19).
There is still one more detail that calls for our attention and raises many questions: why did the eyes of the disciples open to recognize Jesus whilst they were at table with Him? The Eucharistic context is undeniable. The disciples are at table, the Lord is with them; He took the bread and saying the prayer of benediction, broke it. It was during the last action of the breaking of the bread that the companions recognised Jesus. It was not only the action in itself but finally Cleopas and his friends could see, with their own eyes, the hands pierced by the nails of the passion that until that very movement had remained hidden from them during the long journey on the road.
It was in that very moment in which they recognized the presence of the Crucified One, that He ‘disappeared from their sight’ while their eyes remained fixed on the broken bread, that was left to fall ‘onto the altar’. Is it not the same experience that every one of us can have every Sunday?
So, ‘they set out that instant’ (Lk 24:33). They started to understand that death is not the last word on the life of each one of us as we can not be ‘held in its power’ (Acts 2:24). This is a sign of great hope that gives us irreprehensible joy! In so much as we journey to Jerusalem — each on his own road, it must often seem long and tiring. However, now with our eyes fully opened it appears that we have the privilege to say to all the world, ‘the Lord has indeed risen’ (Lk 24:34).
May your people exult for ever, O God, in renewed youthfulness of spirit, so that, rejoicing now in the restored glory of our adoption, we may look forward in confident hope to the rejoicing of the day of resurrection.