Luke 24:13-35
'They Set Out at Once' By Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.  And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. 

He asked them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?"  They stopped, looking downcast.  One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?"  And he replied to them, "What sort of things?"  They said to him, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.  But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.  Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.  Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see." 

And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.  As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.  But they urged him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over."  So he went in to stay with them.  And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. 

Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?"  So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!"  Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

If today's Gospel sounds familiar, it is probably because we read it on Wednesday of Easter Week.  By placing this story at the center of the Octave of Easter and on a Sunday at the center of the Easter season, the Church makes it clear that this Eucharistic experience of the risen Lord should be at the center of the Church's celebration of Easter and of each Christian's new life in Christ.

"The two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread" (Lk 24:35).

"Jesus himself drew near and walked with them . . ." (Lk 24:15).  As Christians, we believe that Jesus wants desperately to be near each of us and walk with us on our journey through life.  He wants us to think critically about our deeper questions on the meaning of life, and He wants us to bring them to Him.  He alone can provide the answers.  He will set our hearts on fire with the truth of his Word.  He draws near us during the Liturgy of the Word at Mass.  Through the proper proclamation of the Word, through prayerful reflection upon it, and through the well-prepared preaching of it, God comes in a real way every Sunday to be our companion on the journey.  Once we begin to taste how sweet the Lord is, we want Him to remain:  "They urged him, 'Stay with us . . .'" (Lk 24:29).

As powerful as Jesus' explanation of the Scriptures was for the disciples, and even though their hearts were on fire, they still did not recognize their Master and Lord.  It was not until they were seated at table and Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them that they saw the Lord who had been present all along.  And as soon as they recognized Him, he vanished from their sight.  Once they had come to see Christ truly present in the Eucharist, his work was done.  Now they had a guaranteed way for Him to remain with them on their journey till the end of their days.

"So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem . . ." (Lk 24:33).  After a very long emotionally and physically exhausting day, the two disciples got back on the road and returned to the city.  The breaking of the bread rejuvenated and reenergized Cleopas and his companion.  They were so excited about their encounter with the risen Lord through his Word and through the bread of life that they had to share their encounter with their friends.  The Eucharist is a powerful source of nourishment.  Christ renews and refreshes us at the table of his Word and of his body and blood.  He sets a feast for us on Sunday that propels us out into the world to share our joy and our hope through our energized service and love of friend and neighbor.

Lord, bless Christians around the world in a profound way as we celebrate this Easter season during the Year of the Eucharist.  Draw near and walk with each of us on our journey.  Set our hearts on fire through our prayerful meditation upon your Word and through our communal proclamation and preaching of your Word.  Fill us with Easter faith that every Christian may come to see you in the breaking of the bread.  Send us out renewed and reenergized to bring your new life to every corner of the world.  Amen.

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