What a difference it makes to have Jesus in our life! With Jesus we have a positive attitude and enjoy life. How wretched our life would be without Jesus. Without Jesus we would be in a mess. With Jesus in our life we see everything in a new way.
Such a beautiful positive attitude is what we would expect of a disciple of Jesus but such an attitude is not what we meet in the two disciples going from Jerusalem towards Emmaus because they had temporarily lost Jesus.
We have all traveled the road to Emmaus. In one way or another at some time we have all had our hopes dashed. We are the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Christ joined us on the road and opened up the Scriptures to us so that we could see our cross or our dashed hopes taken up in the plan of God.
We asked Christ to spend the evening with us and then we recognized him in the breaking of bread. When Jesus was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. It is strange that Jesus vanished immediately but surely Jesus wanted them to understand that he is present with the Church every time it celebrates as they did on that road to Emmaus.
During the Last Supper Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus did the same four things with the bread on the road to Emmaus as he did at the Last Supper; he took it, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. Jesus himself taught them on the road to Emmaus that when they do this in remembrance of him he really is with them and their hearts burn within.
From now on every time they do this in remembrance of Jesus he will be with them just as he was with them on the road to Emmaus. Every time we do this in remembrance of Jesus he is with us just as he was with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
We know Christ is present with us. Christ is not just present but transforms us, renews us, recreates us just as he restored hope and joy once again in the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The Paschal Candle lighting here reminds us that this happened once again this Easter when we experienced Christ in a special way during the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. We see the dashed hopes of the disciples on the road to Emmaus in the five grains of incense on the candle representing the five wounds of Christ. But around those five grains of incense we also see that Christ is the alpha and omega, the first and last.
Suffering and dashed hopes and crosses are not the last word. The resurrection of Christ has the last word, omega. The light on the top of the candle, the light of Christ brightening our lives, is that last word of Christ.
Lets go back to the Gospel story. This two disciples going to Emmaus faces were downcast. Their hopes had been dashed. They thought Jesus was the Messiah but he had been crucified and died, and with his death their hopes died also. When they came near to Emmaus they stopped, not wishing to continue their journey any longer because it was evening. After recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread do you notice the big change that came over them? They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem.
They had been leaving Jerusalem trying to escape from the reality of a dashed hope. Instead of staying away from Jerusalem now they wanted to go back again to where their hope was dashed.
Previously when it was evening they did not have the enthusiasm to continue their journey any longer, and stopped when it was dusk. Now even though it was dark they set out to travel back to Jerusalem by night.
What a difference it makes to have Jesus in your life! What a difference it makes to meet Jesus and know him. What a difference to meet Jesus in the Sacred Scriptures of the Bible and in the breaking of the bread. Then your heart burns within you.
When the disciples met Jesus on the road it was a gentle meeting. He walked by their side. He listened to their story. He met them where they were at. He met them at their own level.
When we meet Jesus then we have the strength to face the difficulties of life. We get this strength from Jesus the same way that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus did, by reading the Sacred Scriptures of the Bible and in the breaking of the bread at Mass. Jesus gave those two disciples a new understanding of Scripture that corrected their views and they met Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
Reading Scripture helps correct our wayward thinking and we meet Jesus in the Eucharist. We all believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist but Jesus is also present to us when we read the Bible.
Would you consider taking out your Bible and reading from it if you are not doing so? It will heal your thinking just as the thinking of those two disciples on the road to Emmaus was healed. When their thinking was healed they were able to turn around from Emmaus and return to Jerusalem. When we meet Jesus in the Scripture and the Eucharist and have our thinking healed we too can return from Emmaus to Jerusalem .
We encounter Christ every time we celebrate the Eucharist just as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The Scriptures are proclaimed and explained in the light of Christ. Our eyes are opened to a new way of looking at reality by the Word of God.
We recognize Christ in the breaking of bread, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This does not mean that Christ is not present in other ways because we see Christ also present in the ministry of his apostles.
The Real Presence means Christ is present in the fullest sense in the Eucharist, substantially present, in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
We have all traveled the road to Emmaus at some time as we had our hopes dashed. But what a difference the presence of Christ makes in our lives. Our eyes are opened to a new way of looking at reality by the Word of God.
We recognize the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Christ is not just present but transforms us, renews us, recreates us just as he restored hope and joy once again in the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
We may say, “what a privilege for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus to meet Jesus, to listen to him explaining the Scriptures to them, to share in the Eucharist with Jesus.” Yes it certainly was a wonderful privilege. But every time we celebrate the Eucharist here we meet Jesus in the same way and are nourished from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body as the two disciples were 2000 years ago.