Today we have the story of the “Journey to Emmaus.” This is the second of three major journeys in the New Testament. We have just completed the first journey in a ritual ‘dying to self’ of fasting , praying and giving alms during Lent in remembrance of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem where he was willing to die for us. Now in this octave of Easter we recall the multiple resurrection appearances and as we ‘journey’ towards Pentecost we will hear how the early Christians, and in particularly Paul, realized Christ not just in themselves or in a small group, but in “all nations of the world.”
In today’s readings a key word for me is recognition. The disciples do not recognize Jesus as he begins to walk with them. They do not even recognize him as he interprets all that refers to him “in all the Scriptures.” Yet, they are interested; they invite him to stay with them. Then during the meal, which is a celebration of solidarity and identification with, indicating close relationship, kinship, communion “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” This reading should be familiar: “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.”
This is the language of the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000 and the Last Supper. In this octave of Easter we are called to recognize the risen LORD in our midst. This is not just about Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist, it is about Jesus’ real presence in each of us. Through the sacraments, and especially through the Eucharist, we are made sacramental; an outward sign of Christ offered to the community to be a grace.
Just as these disciples could not wait until morning and had to return to Jerusalem at once to share Christ with the other disciples, we are sent from the Eucharistic meal to witness Christ for others. We are sent to feed the hungry; not only those who need food, but those who need a smile, a word of encouragement, a word of appreciation. We are sent to clothe the naked; not only those without clothes, but those without self confidence or self-esteem, or those who do not know they are loved by God. We are sent to shelter the homeless; not only those without homes, but those without tenderness or affection, those without sympathy or understanding, those without love and acceptance. We are sent to free the oppressed; not just those who are bound unjustly, but the stranger and the foreigner, people we have biases and prejudices against, those who are treated unjustly by social institutions that we support, even if it is only by our indifference. “Then you will spring forth your righteousness before you.” (Is 58). Then we will be resurrection people.
It is about recognizing Christ in ourselves and in EVERYONE else. In this reading and in all the resurrection appearances, no one recognizes Jesus immediately; it is only upon awareness and discernment that they recognize his presence. We need to remain aware and reflective of our situations and of others that have been put in our lives, and as the world becomes ever more intimate we need to recognize Christ in the world and of being Christ for the world by our witness of love.
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