“Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over” (Luke 24:29).
Acts 3:1-10; Luke 24:13-35
Relative to their size, the impact of the Gospels makes them some of the most potent texts ever written. The evangelists left us professions of faith so compact we are still unpacking them and finding new insights into God’s presence among us. The parables of Jesus are miniature Gospels. Luke’s story of the road to Emmaus is a summary of the entire journey the first disciples had to make to become the church.
Two disciples are escaping Jerusalem when they encounter a stranger who sets their hearts on fire by interpreting the Scriptures and opens their eyes at the breaking of the bread. Luke is describing the turning point from despair to hope as the first faith community assembled after the death of Jesus to celebrate Eucharist in his memory, and there they encountered the risen Christ.
How slow they had been to understand that the Christ had to suffer to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. How blind their hearts had been to the mystery of his death as the source of their new life. How obstinate the Apostles were to the witness of the women sent by angels to evangelize them. From the end of one story had sprung the start of a new one, Good News for the whole world. Jesus has overcome sin and death and given creation a new divine destiny.
Luke’s literary skills are evident in this use of an important appearance story to describe the much larger experience of the whole church. It has been handed down to us to emphasize the centrality of the liturgy in the life of the church. We invoke Jesus’ presence when we gather to read the Scriptures and share the meal he gave us as a sign of his gift of himself. We are also reminded that Jesus often appears in ways that we do not always recognize, and that only by inviting strangers to walk with us and share our table will we know him.
The risen Jesus is with us, in the Word, in the meal and in the community, but also in the stranger, the outcast, the alien and the poor. If we welcome them will encounter him, and our hearts will burn within us and our eyes will be opened to God's presence and power in our parishes and faith communities. This is what it means for us to call ourselves Easter people.