Today’s gospel resonates with us because we, also, are on a journey. And on our journey there are many opportunities to encounter Christ. Just like the disciples, it can be difficult to recognise Jesus. The Gospel account doesn’t say that Jesus was obviously recognisable to them, that he looked then like he did before his crucifixion and death. For all we know, his appearence may have completely changed. But whatever the reason, the disciples did not see Jesus for who he was. We, too, are liable to make the same mistakes as we walk through life. We see and accompany loved ones and strangers, travelling with them in a plethora of situations and circumstances: work, necessity, hobbies, passions, duty, recreation, family. The list goes on. Each of those people represents an encounter with Christ.
It wasn’t until the breaking of bread that the disciples finally recognised him. This is a special sharing moment, a sacramental privilege that comes to the heart of our faith.
We recognise Jesus when we approach him at Mass to receive the Sacraments. But we can often miss him elsewhere: we often walk right past him in the street or in the office.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that we may encounter Jesus in a diverse range of situations, and that our taking the sacrament of the Eucharist is a true meeting place that feeds into all human encounter. He waits for us in all these meeting places.
A reading from the Gospel according to Luke 24:13-35
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. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.
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’. ‘What things?‘ he asked.
‘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. 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.’
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?‘ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.
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 the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.
Now while he was with them at 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.
Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’
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.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.