Road to Emmaus – Jesus Walks with Us on the Road of Life
Published on Catholic.org
In the Gospel of Luke, the Apostle recounts the story of the disciples walking along the road toward Emmaus, forlorn and perplexed over the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. (Luke 24:13-35) Jesus draws near to them on their journey – but they do not recognize Him. This failure to recognize Jesus is a common theme in many of the post-resurrection appearances recounted in the Scriptures.
The disciples continue their discussion of the events which had occurred during the days before, surprised
that the stranger beside them seemed unaware of what had occurred. In His empathy and compassion, Jesus enters into their experience and listens attentively.
Then, he gives them the most profound expository sermon of all time. He explains the Hebrew Scriptures and shows these travelers how they all referred to the Christ, the Messiah. He also explains the events they were recounting to him on the road. However, even after the written word was broken open by the Living Word Incarnate, the disciples still did not recognize Jesus.
They invited their fellow traveler to stay with them, “stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over”. Out of the depth of the love in His Sacred Heart, He consents. Then, we read these wonderful words:
“And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
“So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
From the earliest centuries of the Church Christians have understood this great encounter on the road points to the Holy Eucharist, the great Sacrament of Love, wherein Jesus Christ gives Himself completely to us, body, blood, soul and divinity. This is the Sacrament we call “Holy Communion” precisely because it brings us into communion with the Lord and, in Him, with one another. for the sake of the world.
Of course, in light of all of that, the account of this encounter on the way to Emmaus opens up, for all who reflect on it prayerfully, as a story which is still being written – by the Holy Spirit. In the encounter with the Lord in the breaking of the bread, their eyes were finally opened. So it is meant to be with each one of us.
The Holy Eucharist is more than a commemoration; it is an invitation into ongoing communion with the Living God because Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead and walks with us on the road of our daily life. In this encounter, the whole world can begin to look different, if we let God’s grace change us. Our life is meant to be a process of growing closer and closer to the Lord; a call to communion. We make progress on the way when we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, giving us what we need to continually encounter the Lord, and work through us in the lives of others.
That is partly why, in the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Mass, we move from the Liturgy of the Word into the Liturgy of the Eucharist. There is a progression. Prepared by the Word which is proclaimed and broken open by the priest or deacon, we are made ready to enter into the timeless gift of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord is given to us in this Great Sacrament of Sacraments.
In the words of the Apostle Peter, we truly become “partakers of the Divine Nature“. (2 Peter 1:4) The Living God comes to take up His residence within us as He promised he would. “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) The Eucharist we receive is a fulfillment of that promise. With the Lord dwelling within us, we become living tabernacles, sent into the world on mission.
Among the numerous references to this robust vision of the Eucharist in the writings of the early Church Fathers is found in the early Christian apologist St. Justin. He wrote to explain this Christian teaching on the Eucharist to the emperor in the year 155 AD:
“For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the word of prayer which comes from him . . . is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”
Do we really believe this? Do we live like we believe this? Or, are we behaving more like those disciples on the road to Emmaus, living in what we think is “the real world” and failing to recognize the Lord Jesus right by our side? He is there, accompanying us at every moment, whether we recognize Him or not.
He listens to us, and He understands us, because he became like us, in “all things but sin” as the author of the letter to the Hebrews explains. (Hebrews 4:15) In Jesus Christ the entire human experience has become, in the words of early Church Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons, “recapitulated”, and a new creation has begun. (2 Cor. 5:17)
We can learn a vital lesson from this account in the Gospel of Luke; one which can radically reorient our entire life. Jesus is always with us. He accompanies us on the Way of our daily life because He IS the Way. (John 14:6) But, we need our eyes to be opened. We need our hearts to burn. Then, we need to put legs on our faith, and live differently.
By grace, we are empowered to choose to live life differently because we live it in Him. We can really begin to comprehend the truth that Jesus really does walks with us, if we pray and make Jesus the Center of our life. Then, the account in Luke’s Gospel will become more than just a nice story out of history.
In the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, we discover who we are called and empowered to become. As we walk with Him, listen to His Word, and receive Him frequently in the Eucharist, we begin to desire nothing more than growing in continual communion with Him.Prayer becomes something naturally supernatural and grace begins to fuel our daily life. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus we want Him to “stay with us”. And, He does.
As we live our lives in continual communion with Jesus Christ we begin to change. In the encounter with the Risen Lord at every Eucharist, we receive the grace we need to walk forward in ongoing conversion of life. No matter what twists and turns we find in our journey of life, we come to know that we really can begin again – and again – and again – and again. Jesus walks with us on the dusty road of daily life. And, we come to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread.