We have come to the end of Easter Sunday. Yes, the Solemnity of Easter was a week ago, but we must remember that Easter is such a big deal that the Church gives us eight days to celebrate it properly. We call that eight-day period the “Easter Octave.” The second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday – is the final day in the octave. From there we transition into the season of Eastertime, which lasts until Pentecost. As we find ourselves now in the “dusk” of Easter Sunday, it’s fitting to consider what happened that evening of the first Easter Sunday, 2000 years ago.
The Gospel of Luke gives an account of two followers of Christ who were leaving the city of Jerusalem that afternoon of Easter, heading to a town seven miles away called Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). As they were walking along with troubled hearts, discussing the events of the previous days, Jesus “drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” Jesus asks them what they were talking about, they tell Him everything that is bothering them. They tell Him about how Jesus of Nazareth, the great man of God, had been betrayed by their chief priests and put to death by their Roman rulers, and they share with Him the strange reports they received from some of His other followers, who told them about the empty tomb and the message of angels who said that Jesus was alive. At this, the Lord, still unrecognized, says to them: “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!” And He begins to explain to them how all of these events were the fulfillment of the prophets and the promises made to their ancestors. As they listen, their hearts begin to burn with excitement, as the pieces start to fit together.
When they arrive at their destination, it is dark, so they eagerly invite this mysterious stranger to stay with them instead of going on further. The gospel tells us: “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.” When He disappears, they aren’t upset that He has left them. Rather, they decide at once to hurry back to Jerusalem despite the darkness outside. They can’t wait to share what they’ve seen and experienced with their fellow disciples, who share with them their own experience of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Over the centuries, many have made the connection between the encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus and the Mass. Like the Mass, this story begins with a reflection on sacred scripture and ends with Christ Jesus repeating what He did for His disciples at the Last Supper. Like the gospel story, when the Eucharist is made present through the priest, we recognize with eyes of faith that it is no longer bread, but the risen Lord in the flesh. Like those disciples on the road to Emmaus, we might come to Mass weighed down by current events in the world and in the Church. But we should not be afraid to share with Him those things that burden our hearts, and allow Him to speak to us through the Word and strengthen us with the Most Blessed Sacrament, so that we might go forth refreshed and renewed as a family of faith to proclaim the good news of the Paschal Mystery with hearts on fire with love and gratitude.