Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Gospel for Wednesday within the Octave of Easter

From: Luke 24:13-35

The Road To Emmaus
[13] That very day two of them (disciples) were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, [14] and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. [15] While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. [16] But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. [17] And He said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. [18] Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered Him, "Are You the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" [19] And He said to them, "What things?" And they said to Him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, [20] and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. [21] But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. [22] Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning [23] and did not find His body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. [24] Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see." [25] And He said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! [26] Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?" [27] And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

[28] So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, [29] but they constrained Him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So He went in to stay with them. [30] When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. [31] And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight. [32] They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?" [33] And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the Eleven gathered together and those who were with them, [34] who said, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" [35] Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

13-35. In the course of their conversation with Jesus, the disciples' mood changes from sadness to joy; they begin to hope again, and feel the need to share their joy ith others, thus becoming heralds and witnesses of the risen Christ.

This is an episode exclusive to St. Luke, who describes it in a masterly way. It shows our Lord's zeal for souls. "As He is walking along, Christ meets two men who have nearly lost all hope. They are beginning to feel that life has no meaning for them. Christ understands their sorrow; He sees into their heart and communicates to them some of the life He carries within Himself."

"When they draw near the village, He makes as if to go on, but the two disciples stop Him and practically force Him to stay with them. They recognize Him later when He breaks the bread. The Lord, they exclaimed, has been with us! `And they said to each other: "Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?"' (Luke 24:32). Every Christian should make Christ present among men. He ought to act in such a way that those who know Him sense `the aroma of Christ' (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:15). Men should be able to recognize the Master in His disciples" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 105).

13-27. Jesus' conversation with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus gives us a very good idea of the disillusionment felt by His disciples after His apparent total failure. Cleopas' words summarize Christ's life and mission (verse 19), His passion and death (verse 20), the despair felt by His disciples (verse 21), and the events of that Sunday morning (verse 22).

Earlier, Jesus had said to the Jews: "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to Me" (John 5:39). In saying this He indicated the best way for us to get to know Him. Pope Paul VI points out that today also frequent reading of and devotion to Holy Scripture is a clear inspiration of the Holy Spirit: "The progress made in biblical studies, the increasing dissemination of the Sacred Scriptures, and above all the example of tradition and the interior action of the Holy Spirit are tending to cause the modern Christian to use the Bible ever increasingly as the basic prayerbook and to draw from it genuine inspiration and unsurpassable examples" ([Pope] Paul VI, "Marialis Cultus", 30).

Because the disciples are so downhearted, Jesus patiently opens for them the meaning of all the Scriptural passages concerning the Messiah. "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?": with these words He disabuses them of the notion of an earthly and political Messiah and shows them that Christ's mission is a supernatural one--to save all mankind.

Sacred Scripture contained the prophecy that God would bring about salvation through the redemptive passion and death of the Messiah. The Cross does not mean failure: it is the route chosen by God for Christ to achieve definitive victory over sin and death (cf. 1 Corinthians1:23-24). Many of our Lord's contemporaries failed to understand His supernatural mission because they misinterpreted the Old Testament texts. No one knew the meaning of Sacred Scripture like Jesus. And, after Him, only the Church has the mission and responsibility of conserving Scripture and interpreting it correctly: "All that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God" (Vatican II, "Dei Verbum", 12).

28-35. The Master's presence and words restore the disciples' spirits and give them new and lasting hope. "There were two disciples on their way to Emmaus. They were walking along at a normal pace, like so many other travelers on that road. And there, without any fuss, Jesus appears to them, and walks with them, His conversation helping to alleviate their tiredness. I can well imagine the scene, just as dusk is falling. A gentle breeze is blowing. All around are fields ripe with wheat, and venerable olive trees, their branches shimmering in the soft glowing light.

"Jesus joins them as they go along their way. Lord, how great you are, in everything! But You move me even more when You come down to our level, to follow us and to seek us in the hustle and bustle of each day. Lord, grant us a childlike spirit, pure eyes and a clear mind so that we may recognize You when You come without any outward sign of Your glory.

"The journey ends when they reach the village. The two disciples who, without realizing it, have been deeply stirred by the words and love shown by God made man, are sorry to see Him leaving. For Jesus `appeared to be going further' (Luke 24:28). This Lord of ours never forces Himself on us. He wants us to turn to Him freely, when we begin to grasp the purity of His Love which He has placed in our souls. We have to hold Him back (`they constrained Him') and beg Him: `Stay with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent' (Luke 24:29).

"That's just like us--always short on daring, perhaps because we are insincere, or because we feel embarrassed. Deep down, what we are really thinking is: `Stay with us, because our souls are shrouded in darkness and You alone are the light. You alone can satisfy this longing that consumes us.' For `we know full well which among all things fair and honorable is the best--to possess God for ever' (St. Gregory Nazianzen, "Epistulae", 212).

"And Jesus stays. Our eyes are opened, as were those of Cleopas and his companion, when Christ breaks the bread; and, though He vanishes once more from sight, we too will find strength to start out once more--though night is falling--to tell the others about Him, because so much joy cannot be kept in one heart alone.

"The road to Emmaus--our God has filled this name with sweetness. Now the entire world has become an Emmaus, for the Lord has opened up all the divine paths of the earth" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 313f).

32. If you were an apostle, these words of the disciples of Emmaus should rise spontaneously to the lips of your professional companions when they meet you along the way of their lives" ("The Way", 917).

33-35. The disciples now feel the need to return to Jerusalem immediately; there they find the Apostles and some other disciples gathered together with Peter, to whom Jesus has appeared.

In sacred history, Jerusalem was the place where God chose to be praised in a very special way and where the prophets carried out their main ministry. God willed that Christ should suffer, die and rise again in Jerusalem, and from there the Kingdom of God begins to spread (cf. Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). In the New Testament the Church of Christ is described as "the Jerusalem above" (Galatians 4:26), "the Heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12:22) and the "new Jerusalem" (Revelation 21:2).

The Church began in the Holy City. Later on, St. Peter, not without a special intervention of Providence, moved to Rome, thereby making that city the center of the Church. Just as Peter strengthened these first disciples in the faith, so too Christians of all generations have recourse to the See of Peter to strengthen their faith and thereby build up the unity of the Church: "Take away the Pope and the Catholic Church would no longer be catholic. Moreover, without the supreme, effective and authoritative pastoral office of Peter the unity of Christ's Church would collapse. It would be vain to look for other principles of unity in place of the true one established by Christ Himself [...]. We would add that this cardinal principle of holy Church is not a supremacy of spiritual pride and a desire to dominate mankind, but a primacy of service, ministration and love. It is no vapid rhetoric which confers on Christ's vicar the title: `Servant of the servants of God'" ([Pope] Paul VI, "Ecclesiam Suam", 83).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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