On the road to Emmaus

By | May 4, 2011

In the first reading we hear Peter addressing the crowd following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He is speaking of the meaning behind the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Peter especially notes that even the collusions of evil men to crucify the savior were entwined into the saving plan of God and that all things have, by the power of God, worked for the good of our salvation. This is a helpful reminder to us when we fear that the evil actions of others have somehow corrupted or blocked the plan of God in our lives. No one who turns to the Lord is forgotten.

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Fr. Mark Vander Steeg

In the second reading, St. Peter is writing to the early Christians who are beginning to experience a bit of persecution for their faith. He wants them to cling to the truths that are above suffering and that can serve to stabilize their faith in times of difficulty. He reminds them that they have a “Father” in heaven and that this Father will never abandon nor dismiss them but rather treats all “impartially according to each one’s works.” Peter draws on the familiar Christian image of our being pilgrims and “sojourners” during this life as we make our daily way home to God. The Christian never really settles here, rather we “conduct ourselves reverently during the time of our sojourning.” This truth of sojourning can give daily strength to rise again and face the day knowing that we are on our way to something far more beautiful.

It is here then that the Emmaus encounter can speak to us. The recording of this encounter with Jesus on the road and his definitive revealing of himself in the breaking of the bread is one of the most beloved post-resurrection passages in the Gospels. We are all on the road to “Emmaus,” walking with Jesus and each other, hoping to experience and recognize him as ever more fully alive. This takes time. The disciples did not immediately recognize that this was Jesus with them. This can be true in our life too.

The Emmaus encounter seems to be written in such a fashion as to reveal the early Christian worship experience. It begins with a discovery and meeting of Jesus in the word and then culminates with a recognition and union with him in the breaking of the bread, which is his very self. The Mass then is a full person encounter with God through both his word and his living body. This encounter is meant to bring us into such union with him that just as the disciple’s hearts were burning when they walked with Jesus, so too others’ hearts come to burn with his presence when they walk with us. Christians are called to bring the Emmaus experience into all their human relationships so that others encounter Christ through them. We are in the end, missionaries to each other.

Questions for reflection

1. Do others leave my presence with hearts burning from an encounter with Christ?

2. What are the marks of my sojourning through life?

3. Does my prayer need more quantity or quality?

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.

 

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