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Appearing to vanish

Gospel Commentary Lk 24:13-35

Jesus had a close friendship with His disciples and was constantly teaching them and forming them. He prepared them for His impending death and resurrection. He tried to prepare them, anyway. It is evident that they didn’t like the idea of Him having to suffer and die. And it is clear that before the Resurrection, they didn’t know what to make of the idea. Once He was raised from the dead, we can see that it took the disciples some time — and much attention from Him —  to process such a momentous occurrence.

The Resurrection appearances have a mysterious quality about them. The disciples don’t recognize Him right away. In some instances He makes a point to make it obvious who He is (by showing them His wounds, or by calling Mary Magdalene’s name as only He could). In other instances, He seems to be content to conceal His identity. The story of the road to Emmaus is such a case. When He upbraids the disciples for being slow to believe and recognize, they still don’t make the connection. It seems amazing that they don’t ask who this well-informed traveler is, even while their hearts are on fire with love and enthusiasm for the truths He presents to them.

Jesus wanted to convey the broader meaning and context of the Resurrection. He was immediately at work to teach them the new way He would be among them. This new way is the only way we have ever known. For His disciples, though, it was possibly less expected than His Resurrection. For them and for us, it is something real. Our return to Emmaus this Sunday should help us embrace again the special way Jesus stays with us.

If we can imagine ourselves going to Mass at a time when we are particularly troubled or upset we might recognize an important reality related to the Resurrection. While we pray at Mass, listening to God’s holy Word, we find that He comes alongside us, inviting us to share with Him the things that are on our minds:  "What are you discussing as you walk along?" He invites us to find meaning in the situations of our lives by seeing them in the context of His Death and Resurrection.

To paraphrase St. Jerome, we can say familiarity with Scripture is familiarity with Christ, and this can begin at Mass. Jesus walks with us and teaches us as we walk. In such a blessed walk we can find answers, solutions, strength, consolation, wisdom, peace — and anything else we might need. In such a blessed walk we won’t be upset if He points out that we’ve been slow to recognize Him or His will or His way in the events of our last week.

The Seven Mile Walk to Emmaus Story equips us to anticipate help from Jesus when we attend Mass (and when we go about our daily journeys). It helps to remember, as well, that the two disciples in the Emmaus story only recognized who He was when He broke the bread with them at dinner (or better said, supper). We have the advantage of their experience. Even so, knowing that He is present with us as we pray His Word will only make us better attuned to the even more profound way He will make Himself known to us in Holy Communion. How can we fail to learn something from Him and about Him at each Mass? How is it that people young and old stop attending Mass because they “don’t get anything out of it”? How foolish and slow of heart we can be.

The Risen Jesus had the means to open their eyes, to be readily recognizable to them. The Gospels show clearly that He had good reasons to employ what can seem like a mysterious concealment. He allowed the moment of recognition by the two disciples walking to Emmaus to be during the breaking of the bread. In these moments, we can see that He places a great value on our learning to recognize the life-changing reality of His Real Presence among us in an invisible, sacramental way.

This new way shouldn’t seem so new to us. We can learn to value it like He does.

Fr. Zuberbueler is pastor of St. Louis Church in Alexandria.



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017