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Father Muench Says...

On the road to Emmaus

April 17, 2024

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

The Easter Season is when each Sunday there is a resurrection story, the Gospel at Mass. The first reading at Mass each day during the Easter Season is a reading from the Acts of the Apostles. We read the book chapter by chapter until Pentecost. This book of the Acts of the Apostles tells the story of the initial Christian missionary efforts of the first apostles, as well as the story of the conversion and the missionary journeys of St. Paul.

The Gospel stories of the resurrection of Jesus are all familiar to you. I am certain that each of us has our favorite. I love them all. These stories strengthen our faith each year in Jesus’ resurrection. We are a resurrection people.

Personally, my favorite resurrection story is the Emmaus story. This story from Luke’s Gospel is the source of meditation for me all year long. The Emmaus story is a story in which I can find a place for myself – a place in the story of the Resurrection of Jesus. This year, the Emmaus story is not read at a Sunday Mass during the Easter Season. So, let me share this story with you again.

As you may remember, this story begins with two of Jesus’ disciples walking home from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a nearby city. It is the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion. We are told the name of one of them, Cleopas. The other person, I think, is his wife. In meditation, I often think of the other person as me. We are told that they are conversing about all the things that have recently occurred.

Jesus, himself, comes along, however, we are told that they were prevented from recognizing him. They think it is a stranger. Jesus asks them what they were discussing. They are surprised, but they explain, telling them about what has happened to Jesus who they believe is a prophet mighty in deed. They explain that he was handed over to the chief priests and rulers and was crucified and died. They were certain that he was to be the one to redeem Israel. They mention that some of their party had visited the Lord’s tomb, but it was empty. Now, they have heard of a vision of angels who announced that Jesus was alive.

Then, Jesus, who they still do not recognize, walks along with them. He proceeds to interpret for them the Scriptures, beginning with Moses and the prophets, telling that the Christ should suffer these things and enter his glory. In meditation, I think of myself walking with them, listening to Jesus as he interprets the Scriptures. Obviously, it is quite a Scripture class!

When they arrive at Emmaus, Jesus agrees to stay with them. Jesus joins them at table. He takes bread, breaks it, blessed it, and gives it to them. In that moment, they recognize that this is Jesus. Then, Jesus disappears.

As I read this story, I firmly believe that Jesus does often walk with us – that he is present with us as we pray or are Mass. Jesus is there to support us and teach us, helping to realize of God’s great love for us all. These are times when we are like those two on the road to Emmaus. When we participate at Mass, we are there at that table with Jesus and those two disciples. Jesus continues to break bread with us. We ought to recognize the presence of Jesus with us.

I truly love this Resurrection story. I see myself in this story. I hope you can find yourself there also. Jesus walks with us on our journey; we are constantly being taught by Jesus himself. Each time I celebrate Mass, I know that Jesus is there at the altar breaking bread with us all.

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