05 May 2011

'Were not our hearts burning within us . . .' Third Sunday of Easter

Readings (New American Bible, used in the Philippines and USA)

Gospel Luke 24: 13-35 (NAB)

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 Christ 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 bread.

Supper at Emmaus, Hendrick Terbrugghen, c.1621

In Terbrugghen’s painting the disciple on the right grips his chair as he rises, recognizing Jesus. His companion is looking across at him as if asking ‘Is it really the Lord?’ Jesus is looking beyond the two, perhaps looking out at all whom he died for and to whom he wants the Good News of his Resurrection preached. Is he asking each of us as he looks straight at us, ‘Do you too recognize me? Will you “go to Jerusalem” and further afield to share this recognition with others?’ His face too carries the wrinkles that come with age and suffering, though they’re not the wrinkles of old age. A friend commented on last Sunday’s Reflections, ‘Let wrinkles be written on your face but not in your heart’.

When Jesus disappeared from their sight the two disciples didn’t feel the slightest distress. Rather, they recognized what had been happening as they walked along with Jesus earlier: ‘Were not our hearts burning within us . . .’ They immediately set out for Jerusalem, even though it was night, because they could not contain their excitement and joy.

These two were among the very first missionaries. When I entered the Columbans in 1961 our Constitutions were in Latin. I remember one phrase vividly, ‘sine more proficiscar’, to ‘set out without delay’ to whatever mission you were given. This is exactly what the two did.

There is no sense of missing Jesus, of nostalgia, rather a conviction of his living presence even though he had disappeared from their sight. It is this same conviction that drives our Christina lives, that enables us when we come through a painful experience to see its life-giving meaning.

The experience of the two disciples reminds me to some extent of how I discovered God was calling me to be a Columban priest. It wasn’t a sudden event, such as what happened at the supper in Emmaus. But it was a conviction that one day I recognized and realized had been growing quietly for some time. ‘Were not our hearts . . .’ And while at one level what happened at the supper was sudden, it was a moment of revelation showing the meaning of all that had gone before, not only on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus but everything since Creation itself.

The two disciples invited Jesus to join them on the road and prevailed on him to stay with them in the inn. When Jesus was about to be born there was no room for him in the inn. This time there was, because these two honest men welcomed him and in doing so made it possible for Jesus to reveal himself to them.


The Entrance Antiphon or Introit for this Sunday is from Ps 65:1-2 (Ps 66 in most versions of the Bible). The Latin text is: Jubilate Deo, omnis terra, alleluia: psalmum dicite nomini eius, alleluia: date gloriam laudi eius, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia - Let all the earth cry out to God with joy; praise the glory of his name; proclaim his glorious praise, allelulia. Here is a setting in Gregorian chant sung by the Schola Gregoriana Mediolanensis, Milan. It uses ‘universa terra’ instead of ‘omnis terra’.

Here is a Taizé chant using the words Jubilate Deo, omnis terra, servite Domino in laetitia. Alleluia, Let all the earth cry out to God with joy; serve him with delight.


Ma. Milagros said...

This is one of my favorite episodes in the Bible, Fr. Sean. Thank you for your beautiful sharing.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

In an email from a priest-friend in Canada: Here are my notes on that jouney to a viallage calle Emmaus!

This story called on the early Church to - to stop and see if they were allowing the Risen Lord to connect with their experiences of weakness and failure. It is a conversion story, something was happening within them, but recognition came later. Have we lost the art of recognizing the Risen Lord in our midst?

Emmaus is a journey into the great mystery of the Risen Lord being alive and full of care for our benefit. For the disciples "bad news" was too strong for "good news", so they move out. They were pushed along by sadness, fear and discouragement. But Jesus showed his remarkable interest in our human affairs. He came to them and drew them into a greter vision of things.

Once they saw the truth, they knew immediately what to do. Dismay became enthusiasm for Jesus again, strengthed by their return to the Church forming. Apparently St. Ignatius said that many graces were lost to the Church by out unwillingness to share experiences of Christ's love.

How many people today have given up? How many have nowhere to go but move "out" from the center of sadness. Little do they know that defeat leads us to a dignity unknown to noisy victory. How can we alert the world to the Risen Lord? Today we can take a step. Risen Lord, come to us. The Focolare had that well known song - which in Canada was translated: "Stay with us, O Lord, the day is near its end, but if you are with us Lord, the day will never end"