The Lord who walks with us on the path of confusion and fear is the same Lord who comes under our roof to clear our confusion and fear. But we must learn to tell Him, “Stay with us…” “Stay with us…” was such a wonderful invitation to Jesus by the disciples of Emmaus in today’s Gospel and which so much caught the attention of Pope St. John Paul II. Hence, in his Apostolic Letter, ‘MANE NOBISCUM DOMINE’ (Stay with us Lord) for the year of the Eucharist (Oct. 2004-Oct. 2005), the Holy Father espoused the utterance of these two disciples to describe the true meaning of Jesus in the Eucharist who continues to walk by our side amid the shadows of the passing day and the darkness that cloud our spirit, amid our questions and difficulties, and even our bitter disappointments. And when we meet him fully, we will pass from the light of the Word to the light streaming from the “Bread of life”, the supreme fulfilment of his promise to “be with us always, to the end of the age” (cf. Mt 28:20). Therefore, the three readings today call us to focus our attention on the risen Lord whose constant desire to be with us is felt in His Word and in the breaking of the bread; the pledge of His permanent presence among us and in us.
FIRST READING: Acts 2:14, 22-33 Today’s reading describes the first public outing of the disciples in which Peter delivered his very first and longest public sermon.The setting is post-pentecost and the content is the Pascal mystery of Christ. The apostle accuses the people of their inability to see in Christ the promised Messiah to Israel, and whom they hanged to death on the wood of the cross out of wickedness; but God mocked their foolishness by raising Him from the dead. To further prove the authenticity of the ‘Messiahship’ of Christ, the apostle traces Him to Davidic origin, and affirms that even David himself (Israel’s greatest and most beloved king) bore testimony about Him when he said, “I saw the Lord always before me…therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope, for you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption.” This sermon of Peter became the first seed of repentance and conversion to the people and an offshoot of the spread of the gospel.
SECOND READING: 1 Peter 1:17-21 The Second Reading is Peter’s exhortation to the early Church, made up of Jewish and pagan converts. He urges them to live the faith in unity and harmony since their ransom from the sins inherited from their fathers was not paid with silver or gold but through the precious Blood Jesus who died and rose from the dead for their sake out of the providential love of God.
GOSPEL: Luke 24:13-35 The last sunday Gospel narrative from John was very clear about the identity of the risen Lord. The disciples had no much difficulty in recognizing Him, neither did He conceal His identity from them. But today, Luke reveals that the risen Lord wears the face of a stranger: the same Lord in different identities.
CLEOPAS AND HIS COMPANION We have every reason to believe that the companion of Cleopas which Luke conceals the identity was actually his wife: “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Cleopas and Mary Magdalene” (Jn 19:25). Luke presented them as eyewitnesses of the event of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Like every other disciple, the fear of these disciples of Emmaus was deepened by the ‘problem of the empty tomb’ coupled with the eventual news of the apparition of the risen Lord which generated more confusion in their head. Could it be the reason why they were unable to Jesus at first? Most probably, because when fear embraces confusion, certainly the mind will be incapacitated to reason well. But Luke puts it differently, “their eyes were closed from recognizing Him…” Interestingly, their inability to recognize Him was a necessary tool used by the risen Lord to lead them on the path of the revelation of the mystery of the Christ. It was indeed a catechesis they had not had the opportunity to receive before now. But knowing that they were still stuck in confusion, He did not hesitate to accept their invitation to stay with them.
STAY WITH US… This particular words from Cleopas and his companion changed the whole of the Gospel narrative. They were not just words of mere invitation to offer a shelter to the ‘stranger’, but they were words that express a continuous longing in their heart to hear more from Him. Secondly, “Stay with us” could actually mean the contrary. Instead of being an offer of security to the ‘stranger companion’, they who were filled with fear and confusion were rather seeking for His companionship since His words were already burning like fire in their heart. So “Stay with us” would mean, ‘please we need your security in this valley of fear.’
AT THE TABLE The whole mystery of the Christ discussed on the way was revealed in a single gesture: ‘The breaking of the bread.’ It was at that Holy Table that fear was dispelled and confusion ceased. It was around that Table that power of the Eucharist was revealed. Luke presents this episode as the apex of the revelation of the risen Lord.
LIFE MESSAGE 1. JESUS WALKS WITH US ON OUR EMMAUS ROAD We all walk on ‘Emmaus road.’ It is that ‘seven miles’ road of disappointments and fears. And guess what! Even when we walk with our best of friends and companions, it seems not to change our condition. Yes, there are moments when life becomes too tough and unbearable because all our dreams of good job, health, healing, peace in our relationships and families and financial security have been ‘crucified’ (the death of Christ shattered the hope of many of his followers). But the Emmaus story teaches us that as long as we keep walking and talking about Him, He will surely join us in the guise of a stranger to support and strengthen us. The Emmaus Jesus does not just come to us because we are going through rough times. He rather comes to us because we are still able to think about Him and talk about Him even in the heat of our rough times.
2. WE NEED HIS WORD AS DAILY ‘MENU’ One of the easiest ways to ‘fall in love’ with God is by approaching Him daily in His Word. It’s just so sweet to savour. There is this sweet sensation and inner strength that comes with studying the Word of God especially in difficult times. A believer who does not make the Word of God part of his daily ‘menu’ is empty. St. Jerome says, “Ignorance of the Scripture is ignorance of God.” And the Fathers of the Second Vatican council affirm the centrality of the Word in the life of the Church: “The Church has always venerated the Divine Scriptures just as it venerates the Body of the Lord, since from the table both of the Word of God and the Body of Christ it unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life…” (Dei Verbum 21). Let us develop the habit of listening to God speak to us daily through His Word, for it is there that we can exclaim like the disciples of Emmaus: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?”
3. THE EUCHARIST JESUS HEALS US At the breaking of the bread, the disciples of Emmaus recognized Him and they were healed from their spiritual blindness. On every Eucharistic table, Jesus does not just come to us but He breaks Himself to feed us. It is a table that brings us healing and restores our spiritual sanity. In it and through it we enter in communion with Him, with the host of heaven and with our brothers and sisters who have preceded us in death. It is not just a daily bread but a banquet for eternal life. What bread then can be more desirable than the eucharist? If we sincerely approach Jesus in the eucharist, He will not only heal us, but it will equally be a pledge of eternal life for us.
4. WE NEED JESUS TO STAY IN OUR HOMES Many Christians only meet Jesus in the Church and return home without Him. Sometimes we leave Jesus wandering on the road where we met Him without inviting Him into our homes. The disciples of Emmaus teach us that it is not enough to meet Jesus on the road, we must make Him part of our homes and share our tables with Him. What does this mean? A family that knows how to pray together and eat together is a family that recognizes Jesus in their midst. Our families must be places where no one feels himself a stranger. Jesus remained a stranger until He made His way into the home of these disciples. A home whereby there is no love and sharing is a home deprived of Jesus. The parents must be ready to break themselves in sacrifice to their children so that through them they may come to true faith in the Church.
5. THE JOY OF THE RISEN LORD MUST BE SHARED The joy of the risen Lord must not be monopolized. The disciples encountered Jesus at Emmaus and immediately remembered those in Jerusalem. How often do we share our good fortunes with those in our work post, business stand and in our neighbourhood? If God has blessed us in ‘Emmaus’, we must remember that there are those who are still sad in ‘Jerusalem.’ Let us not sit down and say, ‘it is late and the road is far.’ It is our duty to return back to ‘Jerusalem’ to share our joy and blessing with those saddened by misfortunes.
6. STAY WITH US AS A FINAL INVITATION They begged him, “Stay with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent.” The journey of our earthly existence is like walking from ‘Jerusalem of fear’ on the lonely path to Emmaus our destination. We will all return home one day. Let us not allow Jesus who has always accompanied us on the rough path of the ‘seven miles’ of this world to separate from us at the last moment. We must be bold enough to tell Him, ‘Stay with me Lord, for my evening has come.’ So that as we close our eyes in death, He will open it on ‘the other side’ to discover the fullness of His mystery. And there we will be filled with everlasting joy.
Lord Jesus, You are never far away from those who call upon You with a sincere heart. Today, we are gripped with fear and stubble in the darkness of sorrow. Stay with us, too, we pray, in every part of our journey, no matter how full of doubt or fear and disappointed we may be, so that walking side by side with us and making yourself our Guest, we may regain our wholeness and be filled with an unending joy of your presence. Amen.