Third Sunday of Easter A
April 26, 2020
Luke 24: 13-35
By Rev. John Tran
This passage from John about the disciples going along on the road to Emmaus is unique among the gospel accounts of the resurrection. Here we have two disciples who have not played a large role what in the scriptures say about Jesus. One has the name of Cleopas and the other is unnamed. We know nothing about them except their journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They are two people among the many followers of Jesus, though they appear to be close to the disciples that are better known to us. They have been discouraged and lost. They are confused and have no purpose; they were wondering what to do next. It seemed as if Jesus was not going to fulfill their hopes for the future.
But, before they left the apostles and other disciples in Jerusalem things began to happen. First, some of the women disciples had gone to the tomb of Jesus and found that he was not there, and that some angels told them that Jesus had arisen. Others went and found the tomb empty, but apparently did not see angels or Jesus. What is to be made of all this; is there hope after all, or is all of this wishful thinking? And then comes the stranger to walk with them.
Cleopas and his companion are amazed that the stranger does not know anything of what has been happening in Jerusalem which is now probably buzzing with the news that Jesus body is no longer in the grave. And what does this stranger do but go through the Old Testament scriptures and explain just what would happen to the messiah when he came and how he would have to suffer. Their hearts burned within them; they dared to hope and wanted to know more so they persuaded the stranger to come home with them, to eat, and perhaps stay the night.
Then something marvelous happened. As they broke bread together, they recognized the stranger to be Jesus himself. Their hearts had burned within them as they recognized Jesus in breaking bread and hearing the word on the road. They had not recognized him just by sight just as most of those who saw Jesus after the resurrection did not. But they realized that it was Jesus who was with them in the word and bread.
These disciples are us. Most of us are not well known among the followers of Jesus today. We, in fact, did not know him on earth. But, like the two on the road, we also recognize Jesus in the Word of God and the Breaking of the Bread. Is it strange then that we fail to recognize him when we leave from hearing the Word and communing with him in the Eucharist? We sometimes do not see Jesus in the friend or stranger we meet when we leave church. We leave Jesus out on the road without a thought.
In his Rule for Monks, St. Benedict says that stranger who are received as guests at the monastery should be received as Christ; in fact, he states that we should bow before them, or even lie down in front of them and receive the Christ in them. Maybe today the monks do not bow before a stranger, but they still welcome the guest as if the guest were Christ. How often do we leave Mass or Eucharistic Adoration, and forget to see, much less venerate, the Christ we meet? We sometimes do not even see with our eyes the stranger before us. It is not convenient to put ourselves out for the stranger. But then it is even hard to put ourselves out for one we love. Clearly, what we heard on Holy Thursday is something we need to hear everyday: “I give you a new commandment: Love one another, as I have loved you.”
I'll leave you with a story about meeting Jesus on the road in our time:
A young boy was walking home through the park after attending a Sunday school class. Somehow, he couldn’t stop thinking about the lesson for that day about Jesus’ teaching on the Last Judgment. What impressed him most was what the teacher said, “When you give something to another person, you’re really giving it to Jesus, and you will find the risen Jesus in everyone you meet.” As he continued through the park, he noticed an old woman sitting on a bench. She looked lonely and hungry. So he sat down next to her, took a chocolate bar he had saved and offered some to her. She accepted it with a beautiful smile, and he watched her smiles as she chewed the chocolate. Then they sat together in silence, just smiling at each other. Finally, the boy got up to leave. As he began to walk away, he turned, ran back to the bench, and gave the woman a big hug. When he arrived home, his mother saw a big smile on his face and asked, “What made you so happy today?” He said, “I shared my chocolate bar with Jesus.” Before his mother could ask more questions, he added, “You know, she has the most beautiful smile in the world.” Meanwhile, the old woman returned to her little apartment where she lived with her sister. “You’re all smiles,” said her sister. “What made you so happy today?” She replied, “I was sitting in the park, eating a chocolate bar with Jesus. And, you know, he looks a lot younger than I expected.” Today’s Gospel tells us that we will meet and experience the risen Jesus in unexpected places and persons.