In the Word column for Easter Sunday, I posed the question, “What if you believe in the resurrection but don’t understand it?” In today’s Gospel, Luke offers answers: be patient, pay attention to how your heart is moved, study and participate in a faith community.
The two recounted how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread. (Lk 24:35)
What can you do to increase your understanding of Scripture?
What can you do to journey nearer to God?
What actions can you take to live out your faith?
The Gospel of Luke includes a unique tradition about two otherwise unknown disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed person, who walk on the road to Emmaus and unknowingly encounter the risen Christ. Having heard the testimony of Mary Magdalene and other women who found the empty tomb, these disciples are traveling away from Jerusalem astounded at the news. When they encounter Jesus, “their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” Luke does not explain why. Maybe it was not yet time for them to fully grasp the resurrection. From this we can learn the importance of patience as we come to understand what we believe.
Jesus does not reveal his identity right away; instead, he asks the disciples about their conversation. Cleopas responds with genuine surprise that Jesus is not aware of the recent events. As they reflect on Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples share their regrets because they “were hoping he would be the one to redeem Israel,” showing that they do not yet realize that Jesus’ death indeed was the redemption they were seeking. These disciples’ honesty in sharing their emotional reactions, uncertainties and concerns can inspire us as we walk along our own faith journeys.
As Jesus continues with the disciples, he teaches them Scripture, offering Christological explanations of passages about Moses and the prophets. Luke says that Jesus “interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures,” an assertion that shows how Luke understands the Gospel. Like Jesus, the Evangelists reframe and elucidate Scripture in light of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. This practice can inspire us to study Scripture critically as a way to increase our knowledge. Try not to be alarmed at Jesus’ apparent frustration with the disciples—or us—being “foolish” or “slow of heart.” Instead, recognize that this is exactly where Jesus meets and teaches us.
As the Gospel ends, the disciples finally acquire the clarity they were lacking. When Jesus takes bread, blesses, breaks and gives it to them, “their eyes were opened.” In Jesus’ eucharistic actions, following the pattern of the Last Supper, the disciples recognize and understand who he is. By participating in sacramental rituals in community we nourish our relationship with God and recognize the divine presence in our midst.
Although most of today’s Gospel focuses on conversations, it is Jesus’ actions that reveal his identity. These actions change how the disciples understand him and themselves. They vividly assert that their hearts were burning when they learned about Scripture from Christ. Moreover, when they later share their encounter with the apostles, the disciples affirm that it was the breaking of bread that revealed Jesus’ identity.
As we continue through the Easter season, be inspired to learn from these disciples, who grow in faith by their openness to seeing God in their lives.