Third Week of Easter

Story of Jesus & Disciples on the road to Emmaus

Last week we heard two stories of Jesus’ presence after the resurrection.

One was that Jesus appeared to the disciples who were gathered and hiding in a locked room.

In the second story Jesus appeared when Thomas was with the other gathered disciples.

Today’s gospel reading provides another example of an encounter with Jesus right after the resurrection.

Two disciples were bitterly disappointed as they left Jerusalem.

Their hopes and dreams had been destroyed because Jesus was crucified, died and was buried.

Their hopes & expectations had come to nothing.

They had lost hope and faithbecause Jesus was gone; they lost their leader.

Much to their surprise, the disciples along the road to Emmaus felt their hearts burning within them while they were conversing & discussing the scriptures with the person they thought was a stranger.

So, when did they realize it was Jesus?

It was during their time of prayer, in the breaking of the bread.

I think this gospel story is a very well-known part of scripture, and also one of the most well liked. It’s such a human-interest story that we easily recognize it as relatable to our own lives on two levels. On a personal level, the disciples felt they were walking and talking with a friend, which can be energizing. We know that sitting and discussing issues that touch our hearts can bring us peace and joy, as well as offering us challenges. Reuniting by visiting with a loved one can give us courage to go on. It can revive our hopes and dreams.

On a church level, the disciples’ spirits were reenergized as they listened to the words of scripture that Jesus shared with them.

Their hearts were burning within them while Jesus spoke to them.

This person did not seem like an ordinary stranger.

They were so touched, so moved, so energized that they wanted the stranger to stay with them for the evening.

Their faith and hope and courage seemed to be renewed as they conversed and prayed with Jesus.

The journey we hear about in this story is also our journey.

Haven’t we experienced doubts about our faith, discouragement, sadness, even thoughts about giving up when life doesn’t work out the way we expected? We are not alone; probably everyone on zoom and in this room has experienced these same issues.

Sometimes, aren’t we just like the discouraged disciples on the road to Emmaus.

While Jesus was there with the disciples, he lifted their spirits, and Jesus does the same thing for us. He wants to renew our spirits. Jesus wants our hearts to burn within us as we encounter him: it could take place here at mass as we exchange thoughts and ideas with our Holy Family family; it could happen when we listen to the scriptures at mass and sometimes share our own reflections during the homily; it could be when we realize that everyone is invited to share in the real presence of Jesus in communion; or when we share a sign of peace during mass or visit with someone after mass. Our faith and our hearts are nourished by our encounters with Jesus, through each other, on zoom or in person here at Holy Family.

However, this encounter with Jesus doesn’t stop at the door of church when we leave. If we believe that Jesus changes our hearts and our spirits, Jesus is doing the same thing for others through us.

When we walk with family and friends, talk with neighbors and co-workers and grocery store workers, someone’s heart may be burning inside them because we took the time to speak to them in a way that shows we really care about them.

Someone’s heart may be burning inside them when they come to our food pantry and find something to eat for themselves or their children.

Our Hispanic and Muslim friends encounter our spirit of Jesus when we reach out in friendship with them.

Yes, Jesus is alive and working in us when we reach out to others by our presence, our words, our resources and our actions.

As an aside, I always like to see if there are new views about our scripture passages, based on more recent research. One aspect I found regarding this story seems to fit other research, since only one of the disciples was named in this story (Cleopas), and only this one spoke.

It is very likely, scholars say, that the one not named and the one without a voice was the wife of Cleopas. Anonymity for women was typical of the culture at that time, unless a woman was an independent wealthy person, usually a business woman, without a husband, for example, such as Mary of Magdala. As I have mentioned before,

almost all women have been removed from scripture over the history of the church; or, the passage that refers to them is not used for weekend readings of scripture, but only at mass during the week when few people would hear a story including women.

I think it is likely that most of us or even all of us have had some personal experience of our own, of a time we have seen, heard or felt the presence of God, or of Jesus or maybe angels. A time when our hearts were burning within us as we felt connected with the spiritual or supernatural. This likely could be with someone within our family or with a friend or even a stranger, a time we seem touched by or in communication with the spiritual realm. No, I’m not advocating that we promote a paranormal society. However, I do believe what someone said to me recently: the veil that exists between us and another human being, whether living or deceased, seems very thin. It’s our awareness of God breaking into our lives, here and now. It’sour modern experience of the story of the couple on their journey from Jerusalem, along the road back to their home in Emmaus when their hearts were burning while encountering a stranger who turned out to be Jesus. Let us be open to the possibility of God breaking into our lives in our daily routine, maybe in the music or a homily during mass, or in a time of quiet reflection; because, it could happen any where or any time when we find that God is with us and within us.

Sometime this week I invite each of us to share with someone else, about a moment of one heart-burning experience that has taken place in our own life.

Homily shared on Saturday, 22 April 2023, by Rev. Katherine Elsner.