Some thoughts on Emmaus

Third Sunday of Easter – Year A – Emmaus

Acts2:14, 22-33

1 Peter 1:17-21

Luke 24:13-35

This is clear proof that the game of cricket was known in 1st century Palestine! “Peter stood up with the eleven!”

Both the first and second readings are a classic example of the famous phrase:

“Text without context is pretext”

Both passages should be read and understood in the context in which they were written.

Peter’s speech is perhaps one of the first examples of the “Proclaimer becoming the Proclaimed”. Jesus Christ began his ministry by proclaiming the Kingdom of God and inviting everyone to enter into it as stewards of the kingdom. Peter and the disciples, after the coming of the Spirit now proclaim Jesus Christ as Son of God and Saviour. The proclaimer has become the Proclaimed.

In 1 Peter we have a similar message but with a twist. Whether Peter himself wrote this epistle does not matter at the moment. The few lines we have listened to today do not give us a clear picture of what is going on. The whole epistle is not long; to get the full message you need to read it all. Basically, the proclaimer is again the proclaimed, but the visible signs of the “Good News” are seen in the effects it has on those who have had a personal encounter with the risen Christ. Not a face-to-face physical meeting as did the apostles after the resurrection, but a total acceptance and commitment to the person of Jesus in and through the people we meet day by day. Following in the footsteps of Jesus cannot fail to radically change the lives of those who proclaim the Risen Lord.

The story of Emmaus is perhaps the best known and loved of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, but it is much more than that. The whole story is basically told as if it was Eucharistic liturgy – what we would call a Mass.

1. The two disciples are fleeing from what they have experienced as the disastrous event of the crucifixion. They are disappointed, deflated, utterly shocked by the death of Jesus and they are confessing their dashed hopes and fears to each other. Jesus joins them, but they do not recognise him. This is what we would see as the “Penitential Rite” where we too acknowledge the disappointments of our failures.

2. Their new companion then takes them through all the scriptures which relate to the Messiah. The “Liturgy of the Word”.

3. Then comes the “Homily”, although not many preachers today would call their congregation foolish! The Greek is much stronger than the translation and implies that they are several currants short of a fruitcake!

4. As they draw near to their destination, they invite their new companion to stay and eat with them. This is what we would see as the “Communion Rite”. They instantly recognise Jesus “in the breaking of the bread”. Just as you think you might have worked out what Jesus is up to, He pulls a new trick and vanishes from their sight.

5. They are so over joyed, astonished and invigorated by encountering Jesus that they get up immediately and go back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples. We would see this as the “Rite of Dismissal”. Go and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.

You may have heard on the grapevine that there is soon to be a new translation of the Mass texts. Starting in Advent this year. Many see this as an unnecessary meddling in a familiar and well-loved liturgy. This is not the case. There are to be a number of evenings devoted to explaining why this is going to happen. Please make every effort to come to one of them. Someone recently said to me that they would like an explanation of what the Mass is all about. It is full of symbolism and rich in devotion, but not necessarily understood. The introduction of this new translation is an opportunity to deepen our love, appreciation and understanding of what the Mass is about. If we can’t get the message across in a couple of hours over these evening meetings we must set aside some more time to re-examine the Mass liturgy.

Can you really say with complete honesty that your hearts burned within you as you listened to the Scriptures? Did you really recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread? The time has come to make it so!

© Bob Birtles 2011