Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened.
- Seven is the perfect scriptural number .. it means completely, totally away from Jerusalem. They were sure they didn’t want to be followers of Jesus. They didn't want to be Catholics anymore.
- They were talking together about all that had happened. There is always a story when someone leaves the faith - I got hurt and let me tell you how - I was betrayed and let me tell you how.
Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him.
- Jesus is always by our side but how slow we are to understand that! What a pity we don’t understand it, especially when we have disappointments and things seem to all have come to a big ZERO in our lives. He is there.
- Something prevented them from recognising him. How common! We just can’t see him - and that is because we don’t really know him. We allow our fear, our hurt, our disappointment, our so-called knowledge to blind us to his presence.
He said to them: 'What matters are you discussing as you walk along?' They stopped short, their faces downcast.
- Jesus takes the initiative. He always does that. He gets them to think. Now this is important. I often talk to people who are feeling lost, feeling angry, feeling let down, feeling hurt, and it’s obvious they have stopped thinking. So Jesus gets them to tell him their problem. That's prayer and that’s a wise thing for us to do - to tell Jesus our problems.
- They stopped short .. their faces downcast. Now I may be stretching the Scriptures here a bit but I still want to ask you: do you stop when you pray, when you talk to Jesus? I ask people how they pray and they say, under the shower, in the car, washing the dishes .. and so on. Well, it’s always good to stop - sit down - kneel down - focus - concentrate - give yourself 100% to your prayer.
- And these two were sad, their faces downcast. Well, that’s ok, everyone gets sad sometimes, and those are the times we should especially turn to Jesus. He is right there to listen and to strengthen us and give us back our joy.
Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.
- Well, that’s a bit strong. Jesus is only trying to help. You don’t have to jump down his throat. But Jesus is not easily put off, even when we strongly express our anger, our hurt, our disappointment, our fears to him.
'What things?' he asked.
- See how Jesus wants to get us to tell him our problems! Of course he already knows everything but we don’t, and that’s why he wants us to tell him our troubles, so that he can give us his answer.
'All about Jesus of Nazareth' they answered `who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.'
- Ah! You had been hoping for something and Jesus disappointed you. That’s a common problem. People who have a sudden death in the family, who go bankrupt in their business, who find they have a terminal disease, or are at the receiving end of some other sort of difficulty, sometimes lose faith. They had been secretly hoping or expecting that Jesus would exempt them from suffering and they were disappointed. A catastrophe happened in their life and they leave the Church. They blame it on the Lord.
And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.
- So what these men are saying is - 'We left the Church because our hopes were disappointed but there are these people telling us that our hopes were not disappointed at all, that the Lord is really alive and with us'.
Then he said to them, `You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?'
- Well, Jesus says the words I sometimes feel like saying when I am talking to people who tell me the Church is full of hypocrites and it’s all a money-making concern, and so on. I feel like saying, You foolish men! but I don’t, because when you live in a glass house you can’t afford to throw stones. Maybe if I understood like I should then maybe I could start chiding others, but I don’t think that day will arrive for a while.
Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.
- Then he explained the Scriptures to them and their hearts burned within them. What a wonderful thing it is when someone explains the Scriptures. I used to love the Scripture classes at the seminary. The scriptures are the word of God, they are God speaking, and where God’s word is, God is not far away.
When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. `It is nearly evening' they said `and day is almost over.' So he went to stay with them. Now while he was with them at the table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight.
- He has explained the Word and now he celebrates what looks like the Sacrament. The three pillars of the Catholic Church are Word, Sacrament, Community. So what do these two men do? Naturally enough, they return to the community .. to Jerusalem, the Church. They go back to Peter the Pope, to the Apostles the bishops, and to those gathered around them. They once again become practising Catholics.
They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, `Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.' Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.