Our Gospel passage follows the encounter of the two disciples with the risen Jesus on the way to Emmaus and his making himself known to them in a setting with a Eucharistic background.
The episode today echoes last Sunday’s reading from John, in which Jesus makes himself present to the group of disciples in Jerusalem. Cleopas and his possibly female companion have to return to the holy city, because that is the place where God’s plan of redemption is to be worked out and, as yet, it is not completed: that will come with Pentecost.
The appearance of Jesus emphasises that he is the same person as was crucified and laid in the tomb. The detail that he ate the piece of grilled fish “before their eyes” is an indication that the disciples are authentic witnesses to the resurrection: it is the same Jesus whom they knew before the crucifixion, but now he is transformed; he is not a ghost or a resuscitated corpse. The mention of fish recalls the feeding of the five thousand, which has Eucharistic overtones.
The risen Jesus then “opened their minds to understand the scriptures”, another Eucharistic allusion. The earlier Emmaus episode shows the importance of the Hebrew scriptures in making sense of the story of Jesus. Here the same message is reinforced, underlining that the paschal event is part of God’s plan.
Luke’s Gospel narrative of Jesus is set in the context of a journey with Jerusalem as its focus: Jesus now tells the disciples that Jerusalem will become the hub from which the preaching of the Gospel will radiate out to the whole world. But not quite yet: the Holy Spirit will be the driving force and the Spirit has still to come.
Luke is concerned to show that the risen Jesus is present when his disciples gather together to share a meal in his memory. The essential elements in this celebration are setting what happened to Jesus in the context of the Hebrew scriptures and the breaking of bread.
In our Sunday readings, the first reading and the Gospel are thematically linked: sometimes the connection is more obvious than on other occasions, but the fundamental point remains, that the Gospels can only be fully understood against the background of what we usually call the Old Testament. A homily is an explanation of the scripture readings: a sermon is more of a class or lecture on some specific point of church teaching. It is an interesting point from the Emmaus story that Cleopas and his companion are homilising as they make their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They are focused on Jesus and what happened to him, but, without the Hebrew scriptures, this remains an insoluble puzzle. The same message is forcefully conveyed in today’s passage.
There is much more interest now in Catholic circles in the study of the Bible: a version with cross-references in the margin is a great help in making the links between Gospel passages and their Hebrew counterparts.
- In the Bible, people never discover God: God always reveals Godself.
- The official teaching of the Catholic Church places the scriptures in the context of God’s self-revelation as the Word of God.
The liturgy of the word is an essential element in the celebration of the Eucharist and of equal importance to the sacramental part
Look up the references to the Jewish scriptures in some Sunday Gospel passage.See if this helps your understanding of the reading and, more importantly, of the person of Jesus.