1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
you are a God not of the dead
nor of those paralyzed by their fears and limitations
but the God of the living.Raise us up and make us walk forward
in joy and hope
as companions on the road
of him whom you raised from the dead,
Jesus Christ, our risen Lord for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 24, 13-35
That very same day, two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened.
And it happened that as they were talking together and discussing it, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but their eyes were prevented from recognising him. He said to them, 'What are all these things that you are discussing as you walk along?' They stopped, 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.' He asked, 'What things?' They answered, 'All about Jesus of Nazareth, who showed himself a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and 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 now 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 could 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 all that the prophets have said! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering 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 saying, 'It is nearly evening, 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, 'The Lord has indeed 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.
• Today’s Gospel speaks to us of a very well know episode, that of the apparition of Jesus to the Disciples of Emmaus. Luke writes in the year 80 for the communities of Greece which in their great majority were formed by converted pagans. The years 60’s and 70’s had been the most difficult ones. There had been the great persecution of Nero in the year 64. Six years later, in the year 70, Jerusalem was completely destroyed by the Romans. In the year 72, in Masada, in the desert of Judah, there was the massacre of the last rebellious Jews. In those years, the Apostles, witnesses of the Resurrection, disappeared gradually. People began to feel tired on the journey. From where could they draw the courage so as not to get discouraged? How to discover the presence of Jesus in such a difficult situation? The story of the apparition of Jesus to the Disciples of Emmaus tries to give a response to all these anguishing questions. Luke wants to teach the communities how to interpret Scripture in order to be able to rediscover the presence of Jesus in life.
• Luke 24, 13-24: 1st Step: to get away from reality. Jesus meets the two friends in a situation of fear and of lack of faith. The force of death, the cross, had killed in them their hope. This was the situation of many people at the time of Luke, and is also the situation of many persons today. Jesus gets close to them and walks by their side; he listens to their conversation and asks: “What are all these things that you are discussing as you walk along?” The dominating ideology, that is, the propaganda of the government and of the official religion of the time, prevent them from seeing. “Our hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free”. Which is today the conversation of people who suffer? The first step is this one: get close to the persons, listen to their reality, feel their problems: be capable to ask questions which will help the persons to look at reality with a more critical look.
• Luke 24, 25-27: 2nd step: use the Bible to enlighten life. Jesus uses the Bible and the history of people to enlighten the problem which made the two friends suffer, and to clarify the situation which they are living. He also uses it to place them in the whole project of God which came from Moses and the prophets. Thus, he indicates that history had not escaped from God’s hand. Jesus uses the Bible not as a doctor who knows everything, but rather like a companion who comes to help the friends and to remind them what they had forgotten. Jesus does not set off to the disciples the complex of ignorance, but tries to awaken their memory: “Foolish and slow to believe all that the prophets have said! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?”
This is the second step: With the Bible help persons to discover the wisdom which already exists in them, and transform the cross, a sign of death, into a sign of life and of hope. What prevented them from walking, now becomes for them force and light on the journey. How can we do this today?
Luke 24, 28-32: 3rd step: to share in community. The Bible, in itself, does not open the eyes. It only makes their heart burn, what opens the eyes and makes them see, is the breaking of the bread, the community gesture of sharing, and the celebration of the Supper. In the moment in which both recognize Jesus, they are born anew and Jesus disappears. Jesus does not take possession of the road of his friends. He is not paternalistic. Risen, the disciples are capable to walk alone.
The third step is the following: to know how to create a fraternal environment of faith, of celebration and of sharing, where the Holy Spirit can act. It is he who makes us discover and experience the Word of God in life and which leads us to understand the sense of the words of Jesus (Jn 14, 26; 16, 13).
• Luke 24, 33-35: 4th step: The result: To resurrect means to go back to Jerusalem. The two of them, courageously, get back on the road to go to Jerusalem, where the same forces of death, which had killed Jesus and, had killed their hope, continue to be active. But, now everything has changed. If Jesus is alive, then there is in him and with him a stronger power than that which killed him. This experience makes them resurrect! Truly, everything has changed. There is the return and not the flight! Faith and not unbelief! Hope and not despair! Critical conscience and not fatalism in the face of power! Liberty and not oppression! In one word: life and not death! Instead of the bad news of the death of Jesus, the Good News of his Resurrection! Both of them experience life and life in abundance! (Jn 10, 10). This is a sign that the Spirit of Jesus acts in them!
4) Personal questions
• Both of them say: “We were hoping, but…!” Have you ever seen a situation of discouragement which has led you to say: “I was hoping, but…!”?
• How do you read, use and interpret the Bible? Have you ever felt your heart burning when reading and meditating on the Word of Gold? Do you read the Bible alone or are you part of a Bible group?
5) Concluding Prayer
Give thanks to Yahweh, call on his name,
proclaim his deeds to the peoples!
Sing to him, make music for him,
recount all his wonders! (Ps 105,1-2)