When we look at today’s gospel, we need to realize that behind the scenes is a revolution. This may seem like a simple scene, but those who understand what is really going on, will see this for what it is, a change of power. We can see this throughout the entire reading. Think of this as a play that is not only communicating a message through the words on the script but also the action of those in the drama.
The opening scene is that there are two disciples on their way to Emmaus. We know one of them is named Cleopas. We can take this to mean that neither of them are Apostles. There was never an Apostle with this name. Some believe however, that Cleopas is really the uncle of Jesus and the Father of the Apostle James who wrote the letter of James in the New Testament. Yet, we have no way of knowing if this is who Cleopas was or if he was someone else. We do know that he is not an Apostle. This simple fact is extremely significant as we will see.
Notice, after Jesus arrives that the men start detailing what happened telling their story from their own perspective. Yet, they don’t see the big picture. However, notice one thing, they specifically cite the leaders of the Jews as the culprits in the death of Jesus. This highlights something that we as Christians must always remember. It was not Jews that killed Jesus, it was the leaders of the Jews. That is a power issue and not a cultural issue. Jesus was executed by a combination of Jews and Gentiles, but it was not the Jews as a group that killed Jesus anymore than it was the Germans as a group that created the concentration camps. This is an essential element to this story. Remember, this is about power, and we have cited in this play a power that has gone awry.
When Jesus then detailed the history behind all this, we can see that this was expected, that all of this was part of the plan of salvation and that the next stage of the plan has been put in place.
Now let’s look at that particular moment and see the really center of the message.
Judaism is not a religion that proselytizes or looks for converts. When was the last time that you watched a Jewish Evangelist on television or heard one on the radio? It is not an element of Judaism. So the concept of spreading the gospel is just not a Jewish concept. It is an essential element of Christianity.
Notice, Jesus never returns to the chief priests and the scribes, nor does he return to Pilate. Jesus appears to those who were his disciples. We also notice that as I said at the beginning that these two men were not Apostles. That is another major issue to look at.
As Jesus promised the leaders of the Jews much to their anger, he was going to take the mantle of leadership from them. Yet, he does not simply then hand it over the apostles and keeps the same structure going. If you look, you will see that Jesus starts something completely new. So you are witnessing him describe the whole revolution to these two disciples. They however are not Apostles either, so again we are not dealing with a chain of command here as much as he is gathering the people together on all levels of relationship with Jesus and making them all leaders in the faith: the Apostles and then the disciples. Yet, each one has an important role in this new revolution of changing the world. All of this was planned out a head of time.
Now what does this all mean? Let’s look at it deeper. Remember what I told you a long time ago that those who said that the Priests and the religious were here to be holy for us, were wrong? That is true and it has been wrong since Emmaus. Any concept that the professional religious are here to be holy for you, which was also something that the Pharisees embraced strongly, is just not Christianity and it was thrown out on this day. This is Jesus making the whole community a part of his mission, not just the leaders. The leaders play the important part in helping the rest of the community discern the truth of Christ’s revelation. However, here we have the whole community called to be part of Christ’s revolution which is to proclaim the good news. That continues through today—going back to Emmaus. The priest who celebrates mass represents not himself, but Christ, because it is Christ who reaches out to His people, not the priest who reaches out to his own people. So this is Christ reaching out to you to be on board his movement, his revolution. The next question is why?
Well, let’s go back to Emmaus. Notice that Jesus describes from the time of Moses the history that set forth the coming of the Messiah. Yet, at Emmaus, the disciples learn that the mission of the coming of the Messiah is now over. What then is the next step? We know it is the second coming. So what is our mission, if indeed, we have been called by Christ to be part of it? That answer is simple. Our mission is to lead people into the kingdom in preparation for the second coming of Christ, which also brings forth the end of time. You and I are to be prepared and to prepare others for the time when all of time will end and the Kingdom of God will reign completely. This is a movement that all of us are in and taking traditional Catholic teaching, it is a role that you have in the world. Everything that happened before Emmaus represents the old way, the old covenant.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is the end of that old covenant, but Emmaus is where he consummates this new way of being in the reign of God. That is why your personal holiness is essential as his mine. That is why your prayer life as well as mine is an essential element in this movement. That is why your call to holiness is no less important than mine. That is also why you have never been called to pay, pray and obey your way into Heaven. You are called to a holiness that does involve prayer, support and obedience but in ways that lead you to be holy people testifying to the presence of God.
You are testifying to the most profound truths that define whom we are. Let me give you an example. You have probably heard many people say that God does not exist. It is also taught in some classrooms. Ok then who are we if God does not exist? It is one thing to say that God does not exist, it is another to define what it means to be human if that were to be true. You realize that the simple reality of the existence of God has profound implications of what it means to be human. Think of those who reject our faith, what is their definition of the meaning of life and what is their answer to why are we here? The typical atheist argument is that there is no meaning to life and there is no reason for our existence. How does that argument define your existence? Now think for a second of what we believe. I certainly hope you can see that being a person of faith leads us to live our lives in radical different ways than the atheist. This is because we have an eternal understanding of the meaning of life and it is rooted in an eternal community called the kingdom of God.
You and I everyday have the calling to testify that there is more to being human than what our world alone can teach us. There is a reality that goes beyond our visual clues and that reality includes a loving God who calls us to live in such a way that we prepare ourselves and others in an eternal happiness that nothing in this world can promise us. We also need to live in a way to show that this world is not the end all and be all of existence and those who believe it is will be trapped in its mundane ways and self-destructive realities. You and I since Emmaus have been given the call to live our lives in powerful ways rooted in the faith.
Your living your faith testifies to the reign of God a calling we believers in Christ have received since the day of Emmaus.
Emmaus is a calling to live our lives in rooted in the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection and the Father’s love for us all through the actions of the Holy Spirit. The more we understand and act on that the more we live the radical movement that Jesus called us to live. We call that movement, Christianity.
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