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Recognise him in the Eucharist!

The story of the disciples at Emmaus is one of the most beautiful pages of the gospels, but the text can seem superficial unless we note pointers that orient us toward a less superficial reading.

How could we not notice, for example, that the sentence: “When he was at table with them, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them” explicitly recalls the celebration of the Eucharist?

And, before sitting down at the table, the mysterious traveller also presides over a solemn liturgy of the word with its three readings [“and beginning with Moses and all the prophets he explained to them in all the scriptures…” (v.27)] and his good sermon [“Were not our hearts burning within us when he opened to us the scriptures…” (v.32)]. In short, he officiated at a full-blown liturgy.

The two disciples are sad: they have seen the collapse of their dreams, the failure of their plans. They expected a glorious Messiah, a mighty and triumphant king. However, they seemed to find  themselves in front of a loser. The rabbis taught that the Messiah would have lived a thousand years, Jesus instead was dead.

This situation desperation of the Emmaus disciples, resembles that of the communities of Luke. They are persecuted, victims of abuse. They see the triumph of the works of death; the wicked have the better over the pure in heart. They find themselves in the same state of mind as the disciples of Emmaus. They also stop with sad faces.

It is our story. We too find ourselves sometimes in the same state of mind.

It happens when we have to admit that cunning prevails over honesty; when we are forced to acknowledge the lie it becomes the official truth, imposed by those in power; when we see the prophets silenced or killed.

We stop, sad, resigned in the face of an inevitable reality, forced to admit that the new world announced by Jesus probably would never come true. How to get out of this desperate situation?

The Emmaus disciples have made mistakes. First of all, they left the community that continued to search for an answer to what had happened. They did not verify if the women’s experience could be enlightening for them.

Many Christians were behaving as such in the time of Luke: in front of difficulties and persecutions, some resorted to abandon their communities; others, almost on principle, refused the answers that came from faith. They did not even verify if they could have logic and sense.

The Emmaus disciples did not have the slightest doubt that their ideas about the triumphant messiah could be wrong. They were stubbornly clinging to tradition, to what they had been taught. They were impervious to the surprises and novelties of God.

Jesus does not abandon the people who choose the roads that lead to sadness. He becomes their companion in the journey.

In the evening of that first Sunday, the disciples arrived home and Jesus was with them. When they were at table, he “took the bread, said a blessing, broke it, and gave each a piece” (v.30)

It is easy to understand what Luke wants to teach: the eyes of a Christian opened to recognise the risen Christ during the Sunday liturgical celebration.

In the story of the disciples of Emmaus, all elements of the celebration of the Eucharist are present: there is the entrance of the celebrant, then the liturgy of the word with the homily, finally, “the breaking of bread.”

Only at the time of the Eucharistic communion can the eyes open and the disciples realise that the risen one is in their midst.


Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications