Luke 24: 13-35 May 8, 2011
Two disciples on the road to a village called Emmaus meet a stranger and proceed to discuss with him what happened to Jesus of Nazareth a few days before. This Jesus was executed by Roman soldiers. Now there are rumors that he is alive. The stranger then explains to them how all of Scripture points to the Messiah, and how the Messiah had to suffer before entering into glory.
As they are about to go their separate ways upon reaching the village, the two disciples in a gesture of hospitality urge the stranger to dine with them. At table, the stranger takes bread, says a blessing, breaks the bread and offers it to them. In that familiar ritual they recognize that the stranger is Jesus. Jesus then vanishes in their sight.
When the disciples return to Jerusalem, they explain to the other disciples how they met a stranger on the road, and how they recognized him as the Lord in the breaking of the bread.
Luke’s Emmaus gospel is a beautiful, theological dramatization of one of the encounters with the Risen Lord during those wonder-filled days after the discovery of the empty tomb (Mk 16: 12-13). This passage has a purpose different from the proof-pattern accounts whose intent is to demonstrate that the Lord is truly real in a new spiritual way, yet is the same Jesus the disciples had known before his death.
This gospel of the encounter of the two disciples with Jesus on the road to Emmaus and in the breaking of the bread is a story of friendship. The Risen Lord is a friend who talks with them as they walk, a friend who shares a meal with them. Luke describes an intimate, personal encounter marked by tenderness and hospitality.
We are reminded of the same tender quality of friendship in the meeting of Jesus and Mary of Magdala on the day of the resurrection. Here we have the drama of Mary by the empty tomb, weeping with the love she had for Jesus. The climax is reached at the moment of recognition when Jesus says to her, “Mary” (Jn 20:11-17).
The life implication of the Emmaus gospel is good news spoken to our hearts: Jesus, now freed from the space-time limits of his earthly life, is present in our midst and wants to be our friend. It is the Lord who speaks to us in the reading of Scripture. It is the Lord we speak to in prayer. It is the Lord we join in giving thanks to the Father. It is the Lord who gives himself to us in the breaking of the bread. The Lord is with us.
We who enjoy the gift of friendship with Jesus ought to tell others about it, just as the two disciples did when they returned to Jerusalem. Everyone is invited to share in that divine-human friendship. The Lord asks us to extend hospitality to the strangers we meet on the road, inviting them to share not only the bread of heaven, but the daily bread of earth which the Father intends for all to share.
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.