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Sunday Readings for May 8, 2011 (3EasterA)
By Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S.
Jesus always shared the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven with people before He shared a meal with them. He called them out of their life of sin and into a life of fellowship with God. Jesus called them to repentance and changed their lives. This was the standard Jesus established and it is the standard we still follow as we instruct people in the things of God before we invite them to the Sacramental meal.
The meal described in our Gospel today is no different. Before Jesus reclined at table with these two disciples in Emmaus, He prepared their hearts by opening the Scripture to them as they made their way home to Emmaus from Jerusalem. The two disciples had lost all their hopes and dreams at the crucifixion of their rabbi on Friday. They were trying to make sense out of everything they had heard and seen. One of the travelers named Cleopas expressed his confusion very well to a third traveler who joined them as they walked. In the middle of his explanation of the events of the past few days he said, "…our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel."
Here is the heart of their confusion. Cleopas and his companion thought Jesus' death had brought an end to the redemption of Israel. As far as they were concerned, the shame and death of the cross was not compatible with their understanding of Israel's Redeemer.
The two travelers were suffering from a very persistent problem. They were trying to analyze all the events of Easter using their own logic and experience. Of course, their experience didn't allow for angels speaking to women. Their experience told them that people who died on a cross didn't get up and make appearances three days later. In fact, experience told them that a Redeemer would have more control over a situation and not allow Himself to be crucified in the first place. The discussion raised more questions than it answered. Nothing made any sense.
We are no different today. How often do we judge between right and wrong based on what is convenient, what is comfortable, and what is familiar? How often do we begin a statement with the words "I think …" or "I feel …" instead of the words "The Bible says …" How often do we try to make sense out of our lives using our reason and experience? Christ's loving chastisement is just as valid for us today as it was for those two Emmaus disciples back then, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!"
Even after His resurrection, Jesus still relied on the Scripture for His teaching. He does so to this very day. Today's Gospel tells us, "…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." Jesus used the Scriptures to show that the crucifixion was not the end of the dreams and hopes of His followers. It was part of the plan of redemption. In fact, it is the main point of God's plan for our salvation. It is during the crucifixion that the work of redemption happens. It is during the crucifixion that Christ withstood the wrath of God that we deserved for our sins. If there were no crucifixion, there would be no redemption. If there were no crucifixion, there would be no resurrection … for Christ … or for us.
It probably took a couple of hours for our travelers to walk those seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus that day. For Cleopas and his companion those hours must have flown by as they heard this masterful teacher open Scripture for them. All too quickly they came to their destination. They begged Jesus to honor them by staying with them. They wanted a share in the bread that this man blessed. Jesus had taught them as they walked on the road. Now this meal gave Him the opportunity to teach them that He is present with them in a new way. Today's Gospel tells us that Jesus took the bread and blessed it. Then, as He broke the bread and began distributing it, He revealed Himself to these two disciples.
They had to return to Jerusalem and share their experiences with Jesus' other followers. So it always is with Jesus' disciples. His invisible presence in our lives gives us a strong desire to receive more of God's gifts as we study God's Word on our own and with other Christians. It also gives us a desire for His gifts as we participate in His Divine Service. His unseen presence goes with us as we share His gifts with those who do not yet know Him.
The teaching on the road to Emmaus assures us that the crucifixion was always part of God's plan to redeem us. The revelation at the meal in Emmaus assures us the meal assures us that the crucified and living Christ was, is, and will always be with us until that day when He calls us to be with Him in the eternal blessings of heaven.