Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary-
Encounter of Emmaus in Our Lives"
the Third Sunday of Easter
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
8 May 2011
It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, usually we are
overcome with joy – meeting someone new who leaves a lasting
impression on us, the unexpected encounter with a friend, the
meeting of someone of particular importance – for instance, last
week I shared the story of how I was able to meet Blessed Pope
John Paul II, certainly an encounter that I will never forget.
And these are simple encounters with people of everyday life but
for some reason have a different effect on us. These encounters
strike us to the heart.
The same could
be said for the disciples in today’s Gospel. This was no chance
encounter with the Risen, this was a divine initiative but it
was such that the encounter with God as recorded by St. Luke
opened not just their eyes to Christ but their hearts as well.
The story has the feeling of springtime at dusk. As the
disciples stroll along their journey, Jesus appears to them. In
their rehashing of the events that had taken place in Jerusalem,
they are filled with all kinds of emotions – sorrow over the
death of Jesus, shock at the announcement of His resurrection,
and how their hearts were burning within them as He journeyed
with them. But in the opening of the story, “they were prevented
from recognizing Him” – literally translated as “their eyes were
bound.” They had not yet understood the nature of Christ’s
mission. That is, until He Himself helped them, literally, to
“see” with the eyes of faith mission of the redeemer. In a
remarkable down-to-earth fashion, St. Luke shows us how the
first believers came to understand the significance of the
events they had witnessed and to resolve the cognitive discord
between their experience and their convictions. The resurrection
shed new light on Jesus’ death, His words, and the Scriptures.
Without Moses and prophets they would have no way of
appropriating their experience and yet at the same time, without
their experience Moses and the prophets would not have made any
sense. Jesus’ appearance and instruction to them brings it all
together and unites their knowledge of Scripture and their
experience of the events surrounding His brutal death – in the
breaking of the bread. His words at table – He took bread,
blessed it, broke it, and gave thanks – call to mind both the
feeding of the five thousand and the Last Supper. It is, thus,
in the Eucharist where their eyes are unbound, finally opened to
“see” Him Risen from the dead, alive, they see Him for Who He
truly is – God and Man. Now they understand, now comes the joy,
and their change of heart.
Jesus’ appearance to them teaches us something very profound.
First, the disciples in this Gospel account remind us that our
knowledge of Christ and the Church cannot be based solely on our
experiences. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us
that Sacred Scripture reveals to us the Heart of the Savior.
Scripture, therefore, informs us on the true nature of Christ
and the Church. Moreover, Scripture lends itself to shed light
upon our meetings with Christ and helps us to understand the
action of God in our own lives. Secondly, none of it makes any
sense without the Eucharist. All through Lent I preached on the
nature of the Eucharist because this is the divine initiative
that Jesus takes with us. Very often our eyes are bound, unable
to recognize Christ in our daily lives because we have
unreasonable expectations of Him. But it is here where Christ
opens our eyes to “see” Him, where He touches our hearts and
strikes us to the very core of our being. Here, He brings
together our knowledge of Him and our experiences of faith. It
is, however, a two-way street. Jesus takes the initiative but we
have to willing to receive Him. Have we allowed ourselves, then,
to meet Him? Have we given ourselves this opportunity to
encounter the Risen Lord? How have we prepared for this meeting?
Do we spend time preparing, before Mass, in quiet prayer and
reflection, preparing for this encounter? Or do we come here
simply to socialize? Do we take time after Mass to thank Him and
ask Him to “stay with us, for evening draws near”? If we take
the time to prepare in this way, what then would change about
us? How would our attitude, our understanding change? As the
disciples recognized the Lord, their journey to Emmaus came to a
screeching halt and they returned to their companions and shared
their news in great joy. Their lives changed direction because
of this encounter. The mission of the redeemer began to make
sense to them. And so it can for us as well – in this divine
encounter – if we but let Him.
As we prepare to receive Him now in Holy Communion, may we make
the prayer of psalmist our own this day: “You will show me the
path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at
your right hand forever.” Amen.