The account of the journey of Cleopas and another disciple to Emmaus on the evening of the resurrection of Jesus is one of the most popular and dramatic stories of the Gospel of Luke. It is found only in Luke. The disciples are discouraged by what has happened and in their disappointment they set out on a journey. A stranger joins them. Gradually he helps them to understand, in the light of the Scriptures, the meaning of the events they have witnessed. The breaking of the bread by the Stranger allows them to see that Jesus has really risen. The news is so good that they feel they must share it with the other disciples. There is no time to waste. From being sad and disillusioned they become joyful enthusiastic missionaries of the risen Lord. They journey of the two disciples on the way to and from Emmaus helps us enter an early celebration of worship. Their conversation on the road is like the Liturgy of the Word in which they confronted their understanding of the Messiah with God’s (Luke 24:16-27). Then came the Liturgy of the Holy Communion as they broke bread with the Stranger (Luke 24:28-30). It is the combination of both Word and Sacrament that opened their eyes. We begin to understand that it is not a story about Cleopas and the other disciple but is our own story. We all have different images of God and would like God to fit into those images. Some people become disillusioned with God when he does not intervene in history. The Word of God challenges our human expectations. It helps us to come to a better understanding of who God truly is and how he does intervene in human history. When we share in his Word and are nourished by Jesus in the Sacraments, he will gradually bring his light into our lives and into the world around us. When God gives us his light he always pushes us to share with others what we have experienced.
The Gospel for this Sunday tells of two experiences of the risen Christ. The first is to the disciples without Thomas present (20:19-23) and the second to Thomas and the other disciples (20:24-29). The risen Christ came to the disciples amid their fear of the hostility directed toward them and Jesus. He immediately offered them “peace” (20:19). Then, after showing them evidence that he was their crucified Lord, he announced their mission (20:21). They were sent forth with the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive and retain sins (20:22-23). Thomas found the report of the others unbelievable and so the risen Christ appeared a second time, now in the midst of an experience of doubt. He offered Thomas the evidence he demanded (20:25,27) and urged him to believe. Thomas’ confession is the climax of John’s entire gospel: “My Lord and my God” (20:28). The Gospel closes with the purpose of the entire book of John—that the readers may believe and receive the gift of eternal life. Once again, we are reminded that our faith is not based on “proof,” but on listening to the Word of the Risen One, who speaks to us.
The Easter Sunday Gospel recounts how Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty. When she told the apostles, Peter and the beloved disciple (John) felt a deep desire to see for themselves what had happened. They ran to the tomb and found the cloth in which Jesus had been buried, nicely folded away to indicate that his body has not been robbed. The beloved disciple believed that was a sign that Jesus is truly risen. The “Beloved” disciple’s journey with Jesus is marked by his deep love for his master and friend. It is this love that helped him to recognize that the body of Jesus had not been taken away, but had risen to a totally new life. Every disciple of Jesus is called to relate to him in a similar way. As long as Jesus remains jus an ideal for the disciples there will be the danger to follow him only in thought and theory. Only when Jesus becomes a loved one, will there be a desire to really act as he would have done. Discipleship of Jesus is more a matter of heart than the head; A matter of Faith, more than of thought.
Palm Sunday brings us to the last phase of our Lenten journey that we began on Ash Wednesday. The Passion story is probably the oldest part of Christian oral tradition and the core of the Gospel. Jesus is not taken unawares by the passion. He knows it will come as a result of his faithfulness to his mission. He is faithful to the end at the cost of his life. Matthew’s passion narrative fits into the general pattern of the Servant of God in the prophet Isaiah who is rejected by the people to whom he is sent but in the end he is saved by god. And so Jesus can declare with great confidence to the High Priest who is judging him that, like the Son of Man who judges and who is glorified at the end of history, he is already glorified. In all these cases Matthew sees an event as a fulfillment of something the Scriptures have foretold. Jesus, as Son of Man, is the fulfillment of God’s great plan of salvation for his people. Even Jesus’ death shows that God is so great he brings good out of evil for those who reject him. Our lives might seem full of the unimportant and the trivial. But when we see the events of our life in the light of faith we will discover how God is leading us through them. God’s plan unfolds slowly but surely.