Therefore, the goal is faith – faith to believe all that the prophets had spoken about the suffering of the Christ which precedes his entrance into glory.
– Arthur A. Just (The Ongoing Feast: Table Fellowship and Eschatology at Emmaus, p.85)
You can find the readings for the third Sunday of Easter cycle A here.
Scripture scholars will tell you that this road to Emmaus story summarizes in a nutshell the first 23 chapters of Luke’s Gospel. The disciples first describe their joy and high hopes for Jesus who they believed to be the messiah. Then the disciples describe their profound disappointment at the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Then Jesus takes over the discussion and explains how his death had to take place to fulfill the scriptures. Still, they do not understand until the breaking of the bread. There you have it, Gospel in a nutshell.
My wife and I truly enjoy this story. We have a reprint of a famous painting by Robert Zund (Gang Nach Emmaus) hanging in our family room. We have even given a name to “the other disciple,” in the story. We call him TOD. I know the name is very imaginative, but we like it. I was concerned about writing a homily on this Gospel story because we have our own pietistic views that have surrounded this reading and we would like to leave it that way. That is how much we like this story.
The scandal of those last days in Jerusalem was not that Jesus was crucified, but that the disciples lost faith in what he had proclaimed. Jesus’ every word had been a promise of life, but the disciples fled when threatened with death. He had trusted utterly in God; but they feared other men. On the night before Passover, they abandoned Jesus to his enemies, just after sharing with him the cup of a fellowship that was supposed to be stronger than death.
– Thomas Sheehan (From The Fourth R, Volume 14-4, July-August 2001)
My wife and I came from the same background and we have grown in spirituality over the 30 plus years we have been together. We both recognized a bit of ourselves in these disciples and chief among those attributes is the courage to go back to Jerusalem. Our hearts still burn within us at the teachings of Jesus and we find the courage to grow with the help of the Spirit. We see many people in our faith community who, like the disciples, have great love for Jesus. They are good people who we love and they are too afraid to go back to Jerusalem so they choose to stay in Emmaus, figuratively of course. Many hold onto personal piety or the hierarchical party line at the expense of growing in the spirit of Jesus. They have been sitting at His table in the meal but the courage does not come.
…the Kingdom is already a present reality, in the person of Jesus. In Jesus the Kingdom is made present, and the meal at Emmaus with Jesus suddenly taking over as host is an eikon [image of the heavenly things] of the Kingdom; the disciples are indeed now feasting at his table in the Kingdom.
– B.P. Robinson (New Testament Studies; Volume 30; Issue 04; October 1984)
Cardinal Dolan, in an Easter interview, said to the LGBT community “Well, the first thing I’d say to them is, ‘I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness. And – and we – we want your happiness. But – and you’re entitled to friendship.’ But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that – especially when it comes to sexual love – that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally…”
This response from Cardinal Dolan is a perfect example of how the Emmaus story can teach us how to live today. Reread the quote and every time Cardinal Dolan uses the word “AND” think about those disciples sitting with Jesus and listening with their hearts burning within them. Every time the Cardinal uses the word “BUT” think about the scandal of the disciples fleeing for fear of death. The kingdom is present in the person of Jesus and the Cardinal recognizes he is feasting at the table so why must there be any “buts?”
“The world needs a reformed, critically-minded Christian church, renewed in the humility of its own incompletion, the humility of all that it does not know.”
– James Carroll
If you take one thing away from this homily it should be that with Jesus there are no “buts.” John Shelby Spong has taught us that we should “’love wastefully,’ …to love without stopping to count the cost; without pausing to determine whether the recipient of that love is an appropriate recipient.” If we can do this we, like the disciples in the Emmaus story, will find ourselves back in Jerusalem witnessing to the resurrected Jesus in our communities.