By Fathers Glen Lewandowski, OSC, and Jerry Schik, OSC
Special to Catholic News Service
Has your boss ever said to you, “Go to the airport and pick up John Doe, who is coming in for a business meeting.”? Your response is immediate and automatic: “How will I recognize him?” And you hope that your boss will name several easily recognizable characteristics, such as his height and the color of his suit coat.
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were not able to identify the stranger that walked into their midst. They did not recognize Jesus. They did not recognize his physical appearance or the sound of his voice. They did not recognize him on human terms.
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who has been briefing English-speaking journalists on synod speeches at the Vatican, commissioned Benedictine Sister Marie-Paul of the Mount of Olives Monastery to paint this icon of the Emmaus story’s two main scenes. (CNS photo by Father Thomas Rosica. Used with permission)
So when did they recognize him? When he gave himself to them. “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them” (Lk 24:30). They recognized him when he gave himself to them in the Eucharist. In other words, they recognized him when he gave himself to them on divine terms in the sacrament of his body and blood. At the beginning of the journey they did not recognize him on human terms, but at the end of the journey they recognized him in his divinity before he vanished from their sight (Lk 24:31).
The story of the road to Emmaus has many lessons for us and we wish to focus on only one: The active agent in revelation is Christ himself. We can’t recognize our savior on human terms while using our human skills. We don’t recognize Christ just by walking down the road and discussing “the things that have taken place in these days” (Lk 24:18). Rather, we recognize him when he opens the Scriptures for us and breaks the bread for us. We are actors on the stage when Revelation takes place but we never have the lead role. The main actor is always Christ, our savior. He reveals himself on the road to Emmaus, on the road to Damascus, and on the road of life.
Synod note: The Emmaus story has surfaced several times in the course of the synod. Don Pascual, superior general of the Society of Don Bosco — men dedicated to youth work — told the synod, “It is both a story of what happened and a programmatic itinerary for evangelization.” The story tells where we are going and how to get there. Where: to Jesus. How: walking together.
Like many youths whose hopes have been dashed, the two men on the road were deeply disappointed in the community they left behind back in Jerusalem. They were walking out on it. Everything about “the things that have taken place back there in these days gone by” had gone wrong.
Jesus walks together with them, on the way. Between the community they left and the community to which they return in the end, there is Jesus.
Evangelization outside the context of community is dangerous and false, Don Pascual insisted. Connecting with community, at a new depth, heals and restores hope. Jesus connects with community. Jesus restores hope.
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