Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Attending Mass on the Road to Emmaus

With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. - Luke 24:31

The story of the two disciples of Jesus on the Road to Emmaus is one of my favorite accounts of the experience of the resurrected Lord in the gospels. Since it was the gospel reading proclaimed at today's Mass, I would like to discuss some things about it.

First of all, Luke says that it is two disciples of Jesus, however, it is not two of the twelve. He only mentions one of them by name, Cleopas. I think Luke uses disciples other than the twelve to create a sense of timelessness to the story, so that we can insert even ourselves in place of Cleopas and the other disciple on our journey of faith.

Secondly, Jesus walks up to them, and Luke says not so much that they didn't recognize him but that their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. This says to me that the failure to recognize Jesus is not from a physical standpoint alone. Notice in the next verses, they describe Jesus as a "prophet mighty in word and deed." They do not respond as St. Peter did, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." So not only did they not recognize Jesus physically, but they also did not recognize who he was and is, the eternal Son of the Father.

Next Jesus opens the words of the law and prophets and reveals how he is the key to understanding the scriptures of Israel. It is in this way that the Church received the fullness of the Truth which it hands on. It is not a written word but a living Word spoken by the master himself to the apostles, and through the apostles to their successors, the bishops, it is still spoken to us today. This is the Sacred Tradition of the Church. The written words of the scripture come to life through the Sacred Tradition of the Church. It is the means by which we can fully understand the meaning of the written word. Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition can never oppose one another, and one can never stand alone without the other, and even if they stand together they lose some of their meaning if viewed outside the Church.

Then, after Jesus has opened their eyes to the scriptures, he leaves them with the most important thing of all. As he is making to leave them, they invite him in to eat with them since the day is nearly over. Jesus, as he did on the night before he died, took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them. It was only after Jesus broke bread with them that their eyes were opened and they recognized him. It was not in his words alone that he was made known to them. Notice, even after he explained everything written about him in the law and prophets, their eyes still were not opened. It was only after breaking bread that they knew Jesus was in their midst.

The Road to Emmaus story means so much to me because it is the very heart and soul of Catholic worship. This is Luke's rendition of the Mass. We are all on a journey to meet the risen Lord. We gather together, hear the word of God proclaimed and explained in the Tradition of the Church, and when the priest utters the Lord's words of blessing over simple gifts of bread and wine, suddenly our eyes are no longer prevented from recognizing him. In the breaking of bread there within our midst is Jesus, and we know he is alive.

Alleluia! Surrexit Christus! Alleluia!


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