Stay with us.
In today’s gospel, following Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, two of his disciples set out on a journey to a village called Emmaus. However, scripture scholars tell us that the identity of this village is disputed. The precise destination doesn’t really matter though, for it is the disciples’ interior journey that is important in this story.
At the outset of their journey, the two men know only that Jesus is dead, executed like a common criminal. Their hopes and dreams are dead, too. In a sense they are “on the road to nowhere”. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, they pour out their hearts to the “stranger” who joins them on the road. So complete is their devastation that they have disregarded utterly what the women disciples have experienced, and its implications. Neither can they recognise the Risen Jesus. The paradox deepens as the Risen Lord interprets the scriptures for them in terms of his own life, death and resurrection. At this point, still not recognising Jesus, the disciples nevertheless invite the stranger to “stay with us”. When the three sit down together for a meal, Jesus takes and blesses the bread. Suddenly they recognise him. Or to put it another way, in that moment they enter into communion with Jesus.
The late Philip Fogarty SJ once made the following observation:‘[F]aith in the Risen Christ will only make sense to those who have a loving relationship with him.’ While at first this might seem trite, it encapsulates exactly what happens in today’s gospel. The disciples recognise the Risen Christ only when they have fully opened themselves to him, by accepting his invitation, sharing their devastation with him, listening to his response, and, finally, sitting down at table with him. Engagement with the “stranger” leads to the encounter par excellence: Euch arist – communion with Christ and with one another.
In this story from Luke we gain insight into the early Christian understanding of Eucharist as a direct encounter with the Risen Christ. We are also offered a powerful reminder that the Risen Christ invites each one of us into loving relationship with him. The eucharistic action , the breaking open of the Word and the breaking of the Bread, makes this a tangible reality. This is the source and summit of our faith. However, the realities of life are multi-faceted, as the disciples, and all of us, have experienced. Broken dreams, broken relationships, failure, war, civil strife, poverty, illness, bereavement, even perhaps our own approaching death – all of these difficult experiences, and so many more, can devastate us, making us strangers to ourselves and to Jesus.Then, the eucharistic covenant can seem remote or even non-existent..When this happens, let us try to remember the disciples in today’s Gospel. Let us ask the Risen Jesus – however remote he may seem – to stay with us. Let us pour out our hearts to the only one who can heal us completely through the breaking of the Word and the Bread. The Risen Lord will never leave us to face our perils alone.
Stay with us Lord, we pray you. Alleluia!
Anne Keeley, OP