The Road to Emmaus: Walking With Eyes Opened Mtr. Joyce Locht May 4, 2014 As a child, I heard the resurrection stories of the gospels and I found them strange. Jesus used some kind of magic to appear and disappear, but that wasn’t the strange thing. After raising his friend Lazarus from the dead, healing the sick and feeding five thousand with the contents of a picnic basket, the post resurrection Jesus magically appearing and disappearing didn’t seem impossible. But why, like in this gospel account, did his friends not recognize him and then suddenly recognize him? And why would Jesus not reveal his identity at the start? This remains puzzling to me, but I now have a little better understanding of my blindness to the presence of Jesus. Jesus is always present to us, but we are often blind to this. In our mind’s eye then, let us join Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus, who teach us something about what we can do to limit our blindness. They tell us of three things important to recognizing the presence of Jesus: 1) remaining open to the whole story, 2) the Eucharist, 3) and the Scriptures. Cleopas and his friend are sad. Sad because the amazing Jesus, whom they had pinned so much hope on has died and they’re remembering only part of Jesus’ message. Partial appraisals or catching only half the story lead to blind spots – areas where we lack understanding or impartiality. As they walk away from Jerusalem feeling defeated, a stranger joins them. We know it’s Jesus, but they are blind to him. After walking along and ‘blindly’ telling Jesus the reason for their sadness, the stranger - Jesus chides them and proceeds to interpret Scriptures to them in a way that puts Jesus in the centre of the Scriptures and points to a bigger story. Still, no sight. The two are focused on Jesus as prophet – one who would redeem and save Israel from the oppressive rule of the Romans. Their hopes died with Jesus on the cruel cross. They clearly lost sight of some significant aspects of Jesus’ teachings. They near a village; Jesus walks ahead, as though to continue down the road. They are open and hospitable – inviting the stranger to join them for something to eat. This has always been a special moment for Jesus. He characterized himself as bread (John 6: 48) – so when people are hungry he is eager to be with them.
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They sit down to eat and what happens? “He, [Jesus], took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” With that gesture, their eyes are opened and they recognize him and see the truth of his identity. What an astonishing incarnation! Another! Suddenly the ‘aha’ moment happened. Witnessing this ritual – familiar and new – they remembered! It was as familiar as the ancient Passover meal and new. Jesus, just days earlier, had instructed them in how to share the Passover meal in remembrance of him. This is how they would continue to remember and know him even after his time on earth would be complete. What does this mean for us in combating our own blindness? Our participation in the ritual of the Eucharist allows divine life to well up in each of us. Then we are obliged to pour this divine life into another person and so building up that person from within and so on to the next person … until we have an entire community in which Jesus is present as the invisible power and energy of the community. We are given the Bread of Life by the loving sacrifice of Christ and are enjoined to share that life with others so that they may grow strong. When we do this, Jesus is present, not to our physical eyes, but to our spiritual sight. It remains a mystery, but it is real. This account tells of a second way of countering blindness – that of the awakened heart. After Jesus vanished from sight, these two pilgrims discuss their strange experience. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” This is how their blindness was lifted. Their hearts – their spiritual centres, were awakened. The purpose of the Scriptures is to touch our hearts – set them on fire, burn tattoos on our hearts. Through Scripture, our hearts are awakened to Christ and light up our eyes to Christ present in the world. It is only at the level of the spirit that the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus can be understood. The experience of Cleopas, his friend and Jesus on the road to Emmaus tells us that openness to the whole story, immersion in the Scriptures and participation in the Eucharist are ways to have our eyes opened to the ever-redeeming presence of Christ. Jesus is always present to us – present to every aspect of our densely detailed daily lives. Always present, always emanating love to us. May we seek and receive the grace of sight to see and recognize the sacred heart of Jesus.
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