“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
The Eleven and the other disciples greeted the two disciples from Emmaus as they returned to Jerusalem after encountering the Lord. The greeting was an expression of great rejoicing.
Jesus who had died a horrible death on the cross was raised from the dead. Not only that, but he appeared to His disciples sharing with them the new life that was won by his victory over death.
The two disciples from Emmaus recalled their own encounter with the Risen Lord. Two aspects of this encounter that they recalled are good sources for reflection on this Easter Sunday.
First, they recall how their “hearts were burning” within them as he walked with them on the road and explained the Scriptures to them. Recall that these two disciples were leaving Jerusalem after the death of the Lord. They had placed all their hope in Him but when he died on the cross that hope was quickly fading.
Still somewhat in shock at the death of the Lord, they leave Jerusalem. Yet on the way they encounter the glorified Jesus but do not recognize Him. As he walks with them their hope is once again enkindled as he interprets the Scriptures to them.
As we celebrate the Easter liturgy we hear the Word of God speak to us in the Scriptures. As we listen to this Word, at this liturgy or any other time we reflect on the sacred texts, we can hear God speak to us. His Word lifts us up and draws us into a closer relationship with Him.
Praying with the Scriptures is an opportunity to encounter the Lord. St. Jerome would go so far as to say: “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
Second, the two disciples recall how they came to know that it was the Lord with them “in the breaking of the bread.” When Jesus and the two disciples came to Emmaus, Jesus acted as if he was going to continue on, but the two disciples pressed him to stay. They were so enlivened by His presence that they did not want to be separated from Him. He agrees to stay.
During the meal when he takes the bread, blesses it and breaks it, their eyes are opened and they recognize their companion as Jesus. At this point Jesus disappears from their midst. The disciples have their hope restored and they immediately go back to Jerusalem to proclaim the resurrection.
It was in the “breaking of the bread” that the disciples came to recognize the resurrected Jesus with them. The encounter that brings life was at that table in the “breaking of the bread.”
The Emmaus account reminds us of the encounter we have with Jesus as we journey through life. Jesus has risen from the dead and he remains with us on our journey of life. The encounter between the two disciples and Jesus finds striking similarities with the framework of the Mass.
The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are the two primary parts of this celebration. The Liturgy of the Word is an encounter of the Word of God in the Scriptures. A word that instructs, admonishes, encourages, offers hope, corrects, consoles and teaches.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist celebrates the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord in the one perfect sacrifice that brings life. In this “breaking of the bread” we celebrate that life Jesus offers through his self-offering. In it we encounter the risen Lord and become one with him and each other in communion.
Today we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. His life is life for everyone who believes. He is with us and never leaves us. He walks with us on our journey of life. He calls us to Himself through His Word. He invites us to see him in the breaking of the bread.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Morrisville.