The Gospel today is the road to Emmaus story. I’ve heard this story so many times that typically when it comes up as a reading I feel like I tune out. Admit it, so have you! This morning I was reflecting on the readings though and a line stuck out to me that I’ve glanced over before:
“Jesus Himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” Luke 24:15-16
Let me remind you of the context, in the event that you’ve tuned out recently as well. The passage begins with a couple disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were discussing everything that had just happened with Jesus’ suffering and death. So then Jesus draws near, but they don’t recognize Him, and He starts asking them questions about this Jesus guy. They tell Him all the things Jesus did and then explain that some of the women followers found His tomb empty that morning. Then Jesus, still not revealing Himself, opens the scriptures to them, showing them how all of the prophets were talking about Him. Eventually, the disciples get to a stopping point and invite Jesus to come with them and they realize it’s Him in the breaking of the bread.
Okay, so let’s start with the line I picked out above. The disciples eyes were prevented from recognizing Jesus. How often are our eyes prevented? How often when we are in difficult situations or struggles are we unable to see Jesus with us? He promised us that He would never leave us. And yet when we are in trouble we often can’t see Him there. We ask Him, we plead with Him, to be make Himself known. In reality though we are like the disciples, He is with us, we just aren’t able to see Him. We aren’t allowing our eyes to be opened.
The question becomes then, how do we allow our eyes to be opened? My answer is, to do what the disciples did in the story. That is, open the scriptures. While the disciples were walking with Jesus, the Gospel says, “he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.” Maybe we don’t have the physical Jesus to interpret scripture for us, but we do have the Scriptures and we do have the teaching authority of the Church to help us. How can we expect to encounter the Lord if we don’t know His word? We can’t hear Him if we don’t know how He speaks. And Scripture is the number one way to learn how He speaks.
By reading scripture the hearts of the disciples were opened to encountering the Lord. It says, “were not our hearts burning within us?” So we begin the process of opening our eyes to seeing the Lord in all circumstances by reading Scripture and opening our hearts to His word and to receiving Him. The next question becomes: where does He reveal Himself to us and open our eyes to His presence?
“The two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”
In the breaking of the bread He opened the disciples eyes. How can we participate in the breaking of the bread? In the Mass, by participating in the Eucharist. That is where the Lord opens our eyes to His presence among us. In the celebration of the Eucharist we are brought into the moment of His suffering and experience once again the miracle of His Resurrection, every single Sunday (ultimately, every single day at Mass). The Lord, in giving us Himself in the Eucharist, stays true to His promise to never leave us alone. Our eyes just need to be opened to see Him there with us.
So let us do the work, let us take time each day to get to know the Lord in His word. We need to learn how He speaks. And in that study, continue to open our hearts to the Lord. As we learn to open our hearts, we will be able to encounter the Lord more deeply in the Mass, in the liturgy of the word, and then have our eyes opened each time a little more in the breaking of the bread, in the liturgy of the Eucharist, when the Lord reveals Himself to us as walking alongside us every moment.