Third Sunday of Easter April6,2008

Readings:  Acts 2:14a.22-23;    1 Peter 1:17-21;    Luke 24:13-35

 IN THIS BEAUTIFUL STORY told by Luke in today’s Gospel passage, we have what we might well call a new discovery.  It is the discovery of a new person that a Christian can make.  For us it is the sign of new Christian life. we have here two people on a special journey.  Life, as depicted in the Scriptures, is a journey.  they encounter Jesus on the Way.  The early Christians, too, are called in the Acts “followers of the Way”.The problem is that many of us are quite lost.  Many are going the wrong way.  Others are going round in circles.  In this story it was becoming a journey to nowhere.  it is not sure whther they were going to any place in particular.  For Luke, Jerusalem was the place where it was all happening; it was the focal point of God’s saving work. 

Yet these two men were distancing themselves from the city as quickly as they could.  They were lost and they were confused. They had been present during the momentous events of Holy Week.  As disciples of Jesus they were deeply concerned over what had happened.  They could talk of nothing else.  But they were also disillusioned.  The death of their Master was the end of everything.  It was better to get out while the going was good.  Like many others after them, they felt that the life and death of Jesus made no sense.It is precisely at this point that God in Jesus re-enters their life, unexpected and unrecognised.  Just as so often we fail utterly to recognise him.  He may come in the form of a friend, a colleague, or a complete stranger.  It may be someone we love, admire, fear, hate, despise, or want to ignore.  He may come, not as a person, but in the form of a happening or even an inanimate object.  Through these he has something to say to us. But often we are totally blind us to his presence, his coming into our life at this point.As the stranger walks along with them he enters their lives where they are, namely, in their distress about what happened to Jesus. 

Jesus comes to them and opens the conversation: “What matters are you talking about as you walk along?” This question surprises the two disciples but he has their full attention.  “Are you the only person in Jerusalem who does not know what happened during these past few days?”  Jesus’ execution was clearly the talk of the town.  Jesus’ answer is is different, searching for news.  “What things?”   But it gives the disciples a chance to present their version of the story.  “We were hoping,” they say in words laden with disillusionment but full of irony, “that he would be the one to set Israel free.”  Their hopes were well grounded but their concept of how Israel would be liberated was not.  They had heard rumours of a “resurrection” but of Him they saw nothing.  All this they tell to Jesus himself!  How often, I wonder, has the same thing happened to us?

Jesus gives them a lesson in Scripture.  Jesus shows them how all the happenings which to them indicated the total failure of Jesus’ work were, on the contrary, stepping stones to triumph and glory.  “Was it not ordained that the Christ, Messiah, King should suffer and so enter into his glory?”  It is in Scripture that we also meet God and Jesus.  Scripture is the Word of God and through it he communicates himself to us.  It is sad to come across so many otherwise devout Catholics who never read the Scriptures, who do not even own a Bible or even a New Testament.  Many do read the Scriptures in one way or another but they have no one to explain its deeper meanings.  We all need help to understand the cultural background and the many symbolisms that pervade the Old and New Testaments.  But once the treasures of the Scriptures are opened to us, we will find it is an inexhaustible treasure house which never ceases to give new insights.  In fact, this part of the story corresponds to the Liturgy of the Word in the Eucharist.  But it is only in breaking open the Word of God and finding its meaning in our present lives that the rest of the Eucharist will be properly understood.  The Word of God is also the Bread of Life whose nourishment we need.

As they reach their destination, Jesus indicates he will continue on his own.  He really would have done so, but they invite him to stay with them.  Jesus accepts the invite and goes to stay wth them.  And as they sit at table, the stranger becomes the host and Master.  He takes the bread, breaks it and distributes it to them.    The disciples are now meeting the third mode of Jesus’ presence among us – in the Eucharist, in the sharing together of the blessed and broken bread.  And so their eyes are opened.  They now really see the stranger for whom He is – the Jesus they had been talking about all the time.  At that moment, he vanishes. 

And, after all these experiences, Cleopas and his companion, perhaps it was Luke himself, go straight back to the Jerusalem. Suddenly they realise that their hearts did rally burn when he talkeed to them.  They simply must share their experience of the Risen Jesus with their fellow-disciples, who, in fact, have also seen Him. It was already dark and the dangers were there. But nothing will deter them from spreading the good news, for Jesus has touched their lives. There they tell that it is true and Peter has already seen him.

To sum up then what this story seems to be telling us:Life is a journey and Jesus is the Way we are called to follow. Jesus is with us at all times and in all situations.  We need to be ready to recognise him entering our lives so that we can respond appropriately to Him.  Jesus speaks to us and is truly present in the Scriptures.  They must be an integral part of every disciple’s life.  We pray that they may set our hearts on fire.  Jesus is especially present among us in all our sacramental celebrations but especially in the Eucharist, in the “breaking of bread”.  Our sharing of this Bread is a symbol of our unity as brothers and sisters in Jesus.  It is also a symbol of our participation in the work and mission of Jesus, whose body was broken in the love and service of others.Our experience of loving and being loved by Jesus makes us want to share that experience with others so that they may see what we see and walk the Way of Jesus, which is the Way of Truth and Life.

this infact is a beautiful short story: of being lost, invited by Jesus and the recognition.This story can also be seen as symbolic of the Eucharist. All the elements of a good Eucharist are there such as the encounter between the Lord in the guise of an ordinary person, any person, even a total stranger.  this will happen in every ones life. The very gathering of the Eucharistic community is an encounter with the Lord.  The community is already the Body of Christ. Finally, there is the desired conclusion of every Eucharist – the urge to go out and share the experience of knowing and loving Jesus as Lord and inviting others to share that experience. that is why at the Eucharist we are all sent forth.

Fr Eugene Lobo SJ

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