Rumor has it there was a time when we could go outside, walk or drive to a destination, and then hang out with other people. We’ll be able to do so again when God so wills it. In the meantime, I got to thinking about those times I would be driving all over the county for my job helping to assist at-risk adults and the elderly persons in the community. Needless to say, there was more than one time that I wound up lost or didn’t recognize the landmarks along the way. There were even times I would arrive at my destination and I didn’t even recognize doing so (Google Maps isn’t always right it seems). The experience always leaves the person feeling disoriented and maybe even foolish. I imagine our disciples in this Sunday’s Gospel felt just the same way as they come to realize even Google Maps, Waze, or any other thing couldn’t have helped them with this situation.
Our Gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Easter is from Luke 24:13–35. This Gospel details how two of Jesus’ disciples were headed to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus. On their journey down the road, they were talking all about what had happened to the one they had so hoped would be the Messiah. They are downcast, confused, and trying to make sense of God’s plan for humankind. This is about the time when a third man joins them and asks what they are talking about.
The third man is unrecognizable to them and one disciple pretty much says, “You must be the only one who hasn’t heard this news at this point, but I’ll fill you in on what happened.” When the disciple finishes telling what had happened to the one they called Jesus he also reveals he cannot make heads or tails of why this would happen in this manner. Suddenly, the third man calls out the disciple’s lack of understanding not only the covenants God has continually made with man, but how the prophecies were pointing to Jesus. A veritable map, if you will, of salvation history.
I’m sure at this point they are beginning to say to themselves, “Who is this guy? We need to listen to him a little longer!” In Sunday’s First Reading and Epistle, St. Peter also opens the Scriptures to proclaim the meaning of Christ’s death according to the Father’s “set plan”. This Messiah is described as a new Moses and a new Passover lamb and He is the One whose soul was not abandoned to corruption but was shown the path of life, just as we hear in our Responsorial Psalm for this Sunday. He is the mediator of the New Covenant and is both the royal priest and the sacrificial victim.
The two disciples at this point have asked him to stay the evening with them and their hearts burned within them as this man recounted the prophecies of the One who will redeem Israel. After opening the Scriptures, this man proceeds at table to take bread, bless it, break it, and give it to the disciples—exactly what had happened at the Last Supper (Luke 22:14–20). All at once, this man vanished from their sight and they know exactly who it was that they had walked with. Jesus was made known to them in the “breaking of the bread,” which was how many of the Church Fathers referred to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
Can we have such a profound moment with the risen Lord like these men? Yes! Think about it. Have you ever had the experience of being a follower of Jesus Christ and heard all about his trial, passion and death? Have you also ever had the experience of being unable to see too well, felt disoriented, and had the prophecies pointing to Jesus read to you? Of course! We arrive at the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter) and hear all about how the One we know as the Redeemer has seemingly been beaten by secular powers. When we show up on Holy Saturday evening for the Paschal Vigil, we are downcast and disoriented as the Church is dark, but we are presented with the evidence of Jesus being foretold all through the prophecies of the Old Testament. Before you know it, you are in the very presence of the Lord Jesus in the “breaking of the bread.”
Even though our Mass experience does not usually include seven Old Testament readings like the Vigil does, each Mass is a version of this experience at Emmaus. Jesus reveals himself to us in our journey. He speaks to our hearts in the Scriptures. Then at the table of the altar, in the person of the priest, He breaks the bread. Though we will not visibly see him on our journeys—just as at Emmaus—let us always know Him in the breaking of the bread.
~ Frank DeSalvatore