Sunday, May 8, 2011

Gospel: Road to Emmaus

Caravaggio:Breaking of the Bread at Emmaus

Third Sunday of Easter: A cycle

In the Sundays after Easter the readings usually give us testimony or witness to the Resurrection of the Lord. Last Sunday, for example, we had the touching account of doubting Thomas. Remember our Lord's words to Thomas, "do not be unbelieving, but believe." These words were addressed not only to Thomas but to all of us. Today's readings are also addressed to us.

The scriptures are the Word of God. As such they are addressed to every generation not just to those living 2000 years ago. So when as in today's first reading Peter stands up in front of a congregation much like ours, we should consider that he is speaking to us. When he says, "You who are Jews,"... "You who are Israelites, hear these words," he means us.

In his oration Peter gives witness to the life, death and Resurrection of the Lord.

Peter says about Jesus,

This killed, using lawless men to crucify Him.

At the famous church Council of Trent, held over 400 years ago, the Church fathers refused to blame the Jews for the death of Christ. They said that inasmuch as Christ died for all men's sins, then all of us are responsible for His death. This position was reiterated at the Second Vatican Council.

Nevertheless, He died for all of us and He was raised from the dead for all of us. Peter then quotes the great Jewish King David as foretelling the resurrection of Jesus. Now Peter was no scripture scholar or learned rabbi. Perhaps he got this reference to David from the disciples who met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Some of us must remember that old series of movies with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope--with titles like "The Road to Morocco" and "The Road to Zanzibar." In each movie the two traveled usually by accident to some exotic locale where there comic adventures took place. Well, the road to Emmaus is a journey to the most exotic of all locations and it is a journey that all of us must take.

Today's gospel account is so familiar that sometimes it is easy to overlook what is really going on. As two of the disciples were walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus falls in with them but St. Luke tells us that "their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him." They take him for a stranger. When He asks them what they had been discussing, they tell Him of the events since the Crucifixion and how some of the women had seen an angel who gave them the incredible news that Jesus was alive. The news astonished them and they found it difficult to believe.

The stranger scolds them,

Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke.

Scholars tell us that what follows is like a Mass or liturgy. Jesus reminds them of the scriptures which has referred to the Messiah beginning with Moses and continuing down through the prophets. As they approach Emmaus, the disciples ask the stranger to stay with them. He accepts and they sit down to share a meal. He then offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving or eucharist in the same way that He does at every Mass.

he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.

Finally, in the breaking of the bread they recognized Him. At every Mass we hear the Scriptures read. They tell us not only of the predictions of a Messiah, but of the actual words and deeds of the Messiah. Then after the readings we join Him at the altar table and He comes to us or we come to Him in the breaking of the bread.

In today's second reading St. Peter again speaks and reminds us of our journey. He says,

conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning...

Peter uses a strange expression here. He says that we were "ransomed." Today we think of ransom as a payment made to free someone from kidnappers. In the ancient world slavery was much more common than it is today. Prisoners taken in battle or piracy were sold into slavery. Only if family or friends could raise enough money could the captive be bought back out of slavery. Obviously, if someone came up with the ransom to free you, you would be eternally grateful to that person. Moreover, once freed you would never want to return to slavery.

Isn't it obvious from reading the newspapers or watching TV that so many of us are enslaved to one harmful addiction or another. Has Easter made any real difference in our conduct or relationships? Now we are halfway through the Easter season. In the weeks to come we can discover the road to happiness. On journey to Emmaus can begin today. We have heard the Scriptures. Now in a few minutes we will have the opportunity to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread.

Reading 1. 2: 14, 22-33
Reading II. 1 Peter 1: 17-21
Gospel. Luke 24: 13-35 (road to Emmaus.)


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