3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER
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Why did Jesus appear to the two disciples in Emmaus? There were no witnesses in the strictest sense to the resurrection so Jesus had to appear to his disciples after he rose from the dead. These appearances are called the resurrection stories which started as oral tradition and eventually became the starting point of the written scriptures of the New Testament.
Jerusalem was the peak of the ministry of Jesus. After Jesus died, it had no more meaning to the disciples who were represented by the two disciples that is why they were leaving Jerusalem. The story is historical in a sense that Cleopas was mentioned as the name of one of the two disciples. The other one is not named because St. Luke wants the reader identify himself as the other disciple hence the story is both ancient and contemporary. The setting of the story is very important because it sets the tone of their feelings. It was nearly twilight and the setting sun cast a gloomy shadow on the two disciples while they were walking away from the place of their hopes and dreams. While they were walking away from Jerusalem, Jesus joined them and started the dialogue, as if he did not know anything. Actually it was the disciples who did not know anything so he started to explain to them the passages pertaining to the messiah. Breaking open the Word then was the first part of the journey. While their mind was shrouded with the darkness of disappointment and their heart clouded with loss of hope which was represented by their faces downcast, Jesus became their light, burning brightly.
When they reached Emmaus and they were at table, there came a twist in the story: Jesus now became the host. Here we come to the second part of the story which is the Breaking of the Bread. Jesus took the bread, blessed and broke it. When the two disciples saw Jesus breaking the bread, everything became clear to them. They were brought back to the experience that defined them as disciples which is the Eucharist. After the experience of enlightenment Jesus vanished from their sight. Then they recalled the journey and said “Are not our hearts burning while he was explaining to us the scriptures?” The Word of God was a burning light that set their hearts on fire! Jesus had to vanish because there was no more need of his physical presence; he was already in their hearts. Because of joy, they hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the apostles about the encounter. Going back to Jerusalem is a powerful symbol of sharing the experience of the resurrection to others; Jesus evangelized them so they in turn became evangelizers.
The journey of the two disciples did not end in Emmaus nor in Jerusalem, it continues to the present. In our journey with each other, we always come together to break the Word and the Bread whenever we celebrate the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist that we fully encounter the Risen Lord and we experience the joy of being his disciples. But the encounter does not end in the Eucharist, just like the two disciples, we have to go back to our own Jerusalem namely our homes, our workplace, the world and share to others our experience with Jesus. Then we become evangelizers by our lives of witness because through our faith we are the new witnesses of the resurrection.
After we encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, we continue our pilgrimage of faith until we are finally met with Jesus at the end of the road in a never ending banquet which we call heaven.