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Gospel of Sunday 23 April: Luke 24, 13-35

III Sunday of Easter A, Luke 24, 13-35: On the Road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

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They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).

Today I share with you a short meditation on the Gospel, with particular reference to the theme of mercy.

Luke 24, 13-35, Word and Bread experience the Risen Lord

The famous account of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples of Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35), while starting from a real fact, is admirable Eucharistic catechesis that emphasises the presence of Christ in the Word as in the bread and wine, and illustrates their inseparable relationship with each other.

The talking of the two disciples on the road is a true homily in which Christ makes himself present: “They were talking (“omìloun”: literally: “they were giving a homily”) with each other about everything that had happened… While they were talking (“ev tò omileìn”: “in the homily”), Jesus himself approached them and walked with them” (Lk 24:14-15). Jesus reveals himself by meditating on the Old Testament Scriptures: “Foolish and slow of heart to believe the word of the prophets! … And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them in all the Scriptures what related to him” (Lk 24:25-27); but also from listening to the word of the New Testament: “Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying that it was necessary for the Son of Man to be delivered into the hands of sinners, that he should be crucified and rise again on the third day” (Lk 24:6-7); and it is the Risen One who “opens the mind to the understanding of the Scriptures” (Lk 24:45). Prepared by the explanation of the Scriptures, the disciples of Emmaus, the type of all the faithful, “recognised him … when he was at table with them, took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them” (Lk 24:30-31). “Word and Sacrament begin together with the experience of the risen Lord” (M. Masini).

Luke 24, 13-35: Word and Bread nourish the disciple along the way

“Word and bread are the nourishment of the believer of all times… The Emmaus supper is a prototype of the Christian supper that is celebrated anywhere in the Church. Often the guests do not realise it…, but the evangelist exhorts them to sharpen their sight, until they discover the great diner with whom they are feasting” (O. da Spinetoli). “The Church not only upholds the importance of the Scriptures, but ensures that in their proclamation there is a real presence of Christ. Although different, it is a presence as real as the Eucharistic one: “Did not our hearts burn when he spoke to us on the way and explained the Scriptures to us?” (Lk 24:32), it must be understood that if this had not happened, they would not have been able to recognise Jesus at the breaking of the bread” (P. Bernier).

This happens along the “way”, “the path” (Lk 24:13, 17) of our life: even when we go “sad” (Lk 24:17) away from God, even when “evening comes and the day is waning” (Lk 24:29) in our existence, “Jesus himself draws near and walks with” us (Lk 24:15), even though our “eyes are unable to recognise him” (Lk 24:15).

Jesus “enters” into our lives “to remain with” us (Lk 24:29). If the life of the believer is a “way” that is sometimes difficult, dangerous, sad, he is never alone: at his side stands the Risen One, ready to hearten him, to warm his heart with the power of the Word, to sustain him with the Eucharist, to be recognised by him. “Our life,” as St Paul writes, is “encrypted” in God (cf. Col 3:3).

The spiritual man does not believe he knows what his destiny is, but he knows that God – and only He – holds the key to it. Even the most contradictory or negative events of the past have their intelligibility in a password that is known only to God. The believer knows that his life is protected by this password. He also knows that a “decipherment” of his destiny awaits him. The youth of the Church is protected by this password, it is encrypted in God” (A. Spadaro). And Jesus always approaches us to help us decipher the meaning of the events of our lives.

A Church that accompanies the journey

Pope Francis has often referred to the disciples of Emmaus as a model for the Church today.

The two disciples who flee Jerusalem disappointed and depressed are those who have abandoned the Church because they have failed to understand its mystery, because they have not found in it an answer to their expectations.

What kind of Church do the people of today who find themselves in the situation of fleeing from the Church like the two disciples of Emmaus need? Pope Francis sketches the future of the Church in this way: “What is needed is a Church that is able to keep people company, to go beyond simply listening; a Church that accompanies the journey by setting out with the people; a Church capable of deciphering the night contained in the flight of so many brothers and sisters from Jerusalem; a Church that realises that the reasons for which there are people who are leaving already contain in themselves the reasons for a possible return, but it is necessary to know how to read it all with courage.

A Church that truly places the Word of God at the centre of its existence and its preaching. This is why the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council states: “The Holy Council earnestly and insistently exhorts all the faithful … to learn ‘the sublime knowledge of Jesus Christ’ (Phil 3:8) by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. ‘For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ’ (St. Jerome)” (Dei Verbum, n. 25).

A Church that teaches each one, along the journey of life, that Word which is the only true password to fill our living and dying with meaning.

Certainly, “it is important to know the context of the Bible stories we hear every Sunday. Scripture passages are taken out of their context. What we hear is a fragment of this or that Gospel, often in abbreviated form. Many Old Testament passages are strange and unfamiliar to us.

Putting them in their context means accepting the Bible as something living that gradually reveals itself… If this is true, we can nevertheless remedy it… The more familiar we become with the Bible, the more we will know how to grasp its various connections” (Fr Bernier).

Every celebration of the Eucharist must be like the encounter with Jesus of the disciples of Emmaus: one starts from everyday life (“they were talking about everything that had happened”: Lk 24:14), one confronts it with the light and strength of the Word, one joins Christ in the breaking of the bread, and one is thrown back into life to be gift and mission.

This is why the much-vaunted ‘new evangelisation’ must not be a search for new forms to publicise Christian life, but a courageous search to place the Bible at the centre of everything, basing proclamation and catechesis on it, certain that only the Word of God has its own power to speak to the depths of the human heart.

And only the Word will be able to make our hearts “burn in our breasts” (Lk 24:32), transforming us from being fearful and confused into enthusiastic disciples, in love with their Lord. Jesus may then also “disappear from our sight” (Lk 24:31), but not without having filled us with the Holy Spirit promised by the Father (Lk 24:49), made us capable of “setting out without delay” (Lk 24:33) and proclaiming the Gospel to others (Lk 24:33-35), “with great joy…praising God” (Lk 24:52-53).

“We can become resurrected wayfarers, if the Word of Jesus warms our hearts, and his Eucharist opens our eyes to faith and nourishes us with hope and charity. We too can walk beside our brothers and sisters who are sad and desperate, and warm their hearts with the Gospel, and break with them the bread of fraternity” (Pope Francis).

Good Mercy to all!

Anyone wishing to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, ask me at migliettacarlo@gmail.com.

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