I thought of that when I read over this gospel. The people in Jerusalem were all affected by the events of Easter whether they knew Jesus or not. And since many visitors had come to the city for Passover there were many who had not previously heard of Jesus. Had they had newspapers at that time, this would have been a front page story. And so Cleopas wonders how anyone who was in Jerusalem during those days could fail to know of what happened there. St. Luke does not give the name of the companion of Cleopas. He does tell us that they were disciples of Jesus. And he makes it clear that they were sad and disillusioned as they walked along on their return home to Emmaus. In spite of all the teaching and preaching of Jesus these disciples had apparently given up hope of redemption when Jesus died on the cross. They seemed to regard the disappearance of the body as an unfolding mystery with more details to come.
Cleopas and his friend do not recognize the risen Jesus as he walks along with them. In the evening, after they have prevailed upon him to spend the night with them, he joins them for their evening meal.. It is when they are at table that the disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. St. Luke describes the scene at table in words almost identical to those he uses in the preceding chapter of his gospel when he describes the breaking of bread at the Last Supper. As we know it was on that occasion that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist. So on this occasion he gives the Eucharist to the disciples. And it is in the receiving of the Eucharist that their eyes are opened and they recognize Jesus. They recognize him as he shares his body with them in Holy Communion. I think that Jesus is telling them that although his body will soon cease to be present to them, he will remain close to them in the Holy Eucharist. Cleopas and the other disciple are now transformed from sadness to incredible joy. The full truth of the Resurrection comes to them and they realize that they are in the presence of Jesus. Even when Jesus suddenly disappears from their sight, they remain filled with joy. They forget all about their previous plans and joyfully rush back in the dark to tell the brethren in Jerusalem what they have witnessed.
Today we continue to enjoy the incredible gift of the Holy Eucharist. We are able to be with Christ in the Sacrament. And this wonderful gift suffuses our Easter celebration with joy. Just as the eyes of the disciples were opened to see Jesus on that Easter night, so we are privileged to be with Jesus in our Easter celebration.
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