While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:15-16)*_
Perhaps like these two disciples who decided to walk away, some of us here have become so disappointed with God and are already on our way to Emmaus, that is to say, some of us are already considering leaving the church or even abandoning the Christian faith altogether. Does this apply to you? Let us now find out what Jesus is saying to us today.
*1. Even When We Walk Away from God, He Never Walks Away from Us*
Last Sunday, we read about how Jesus appeared to the disciples not just once but twice. They were locked up in a room for fear of the Jews. Jesus could see how troubled they were at heart, hence the first thing He said was: “Peace be with you.” What does this tell us? We serve a God who deeply cares for us; a God who understands how we feel; a God who comes to meet us right where we are.
Like the disciples who were locked up in a room due to fear, these two disciples were not at peace because they felt that Jesus failed to live up to their expectations. By joining these two disciples on their way to Emmaus, Jesus once again shows the depth of His love for His flock. Jesus shows that He is the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine in search of the one lost. (Cf. Luke 15:4).
It is precisely at those moments when we think God has left us that He is closest to us. You may be going through a very rough path right now and you wonder why God would allow so and so to happen. You may be thinking it is all over for you. Don’t worry, God is right there with you.
Once upon a time, Jesus was alone praying and his disciples were on the boat crossing to the other side, the winds and waves rose and they feared for their lives. From a distance, Jesus could see what they were going through and He decided to go to them walking on water (Matthew 14:23-27). Jesus did this to pass a very important message: “No matter how rough life may be for you, know that you are never alone; I am right beside you.”
By walking with these two disciples, Jesus became the third person on the way to Emmaus thereby symbolically completing them. Are you feeling down? Does it feel like something is lacking in your life? Call on God today. He who has God has everything.
*2. Knowing about Jesus is Different from Knowing Jesus*
Luke tells us that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” What does this mean? These disciples knew about Jesus but they didn’t know Jesus. If they knew Jesus, they would have known that He was not a political messiah and that He had not come to establish an earthly kingdom. They would have remembered that after feeding the multitudes and the people were about to make him a king, Jesus escaped from their midst. (Cf. John 6:15).
Like the two disciples, a lot of us often become disappointed with God because we assume that God’s kingdom is all about finding prosperity here on earth. The crowd met Jesus the next day and demanded another miracle of loaves and Jesus told them: “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.” (John 6:27) At the end of the day, just because Jesus was not willing to give them ordinary bread to eat again, “many of his disciples (like these two disciples) drew back and no longer went about with him.” (John 6:66)
On the other hand, like these two disciples, we may be very familiar with the Word of God, yet we do not know the Word. The two disciples were conversant with scriptural passages such as Jeremiah 23:6, “In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.” They said to Jesus: “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) They failed to understand that this redemption was never a matter of overthrowing the Roman authorities.
You see, it is not enough that you have a Ph.D. in theology or that you are able to quote the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The big question is: “Do you know Jesus?” or put in another way: “Are you able to recognize Jesus?” For instance, do you see the face of Jesus in the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the homeless, etc. Do you remember that song: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do on to me.”
*3. Don’t be Foolish: Suffering is Part of Life*
One of the reasons the disciples were walking away was because they couldn’t understand why Jesus, would allow himself to be handed over to the Roman authorities and be killed like a common criminal. They were asking themselves, “If truly Jesus is God, why did He suffer? Can God suffer?”
After listening to them, Jesus realised what they needed most was a deeper understanding of the scripture. The disciples did not know Jesus because they didn’t know the scriptures. As St. Jerome would say: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” And to their surprise, Jesus began by saying: “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26).
Beginning with Moses, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself showing clearly that suffering was part of God’s plan. This is exactly the same point Peter makes in today’s first reading. Jesus had to be delivered into the hands of lawless men and killed in fulfilment of the plan of God. Jesus was killed but it was impossible for him to have been held bound by the power of death. In fact, Jesus had to suffer and die so as to defeat death forever.
Child of God, it is foolish to think that by being a Christian, you are automatically free from suffering. It is foolish to sing: “Me I no go suffer, I no go beg for food, God of miracle, na my papa eeh, na my papa eeh” forgetting that, like a farmer who has to till the ground, we must first plant in tears before we harvest in joy. (Cf. Psalm 126:6).
It is foolish to recite scriptures such as Philippians 4:19 which says: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory” without taking note of scriptures such as Luke 14:26-27 which says: “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
The point is, suffering is just one part of the story. Whether we like it or not, there would be moments of suffering in our lives, there would be tough times, and there would be moments of confusion and disappointment. We may even find ourselves praying like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by.” There would be moments our enemies would laugh at us or make a mockery of our faith. Suffering is just part of life. We should not give up on God or walk away when things are not okay, rather we must continue to trust that better times would come.
*4. It is at the Breaking of Bread that We Get to Know Jesus*
It is interesting to note that our entire Gospel passage today is an account of the Holy Mass Jesus himself celebrated for these two disciples after His resurrection. This Mass began the moment Jesus joined them on their way to Emmaus. By opening the scriptures to them and explaining to them all that was written about Himself, Jesus was carrying out the first part of the Mass which is known as the Liturgy of the Word.
The Liturgy of the Word consists of the Introduction, Penitential Rites, Gloria, Opening Prayer, First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading, Gospel Acclamation, Gospel Reading, Homily, Creed, and Prayer of the Faithful. If you pay attention to the liturgy of the word, and listen to Jesus speaking through the readings and the homily, you cannot but agree that like these disciples, you would feel your heart burning within you.
Given that the disciples were paying attention to Jesus, they didn’t want Him to stop. They begged him saying: “Stay with us.” This request of the two disciples can be likened to the prayer of the faithful where we beg God for various intentions and chief among these intentions is always that Jesus should stay with us.
The second part of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This is what happened when Jesus took the bread and blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. It was at this moment that their eyes were finally open. It was at the Eucharist that they recognized Jesus and since they were now able to recognize Him in the Bread and Wine (Holy Communion), there was no need for them anymore to see Jesus in human form. Hence, Jesus disappeared from their sight.
Furthermore, every Mass ends with “in te Missa est” meaning: “Go forth and proclaim the Good News.” Like these disciples who couldn’t wait till the following day but found their way back to Jerusalem that same hour, every time we attend Mass, we are called upon to go out and spread the message to the whole world joyfully.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, come into my heart and speak your word as you did to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: Acts 2:14,22-33, Ps. 16:1-2,5,7-11, 1 Peter 1:17-21, Luke 24:13-35).*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu