Third Sunday of Easter
April 30, 2017
Today’s Gospel is something of a treasure map…with a few added details. Somewhat uncharacteristic of the Gospels, and offered in an almost offhanded manner, Luke motivated early Church authorities, pilgrims, archaeologists, historians, and those who were simply curious to search for a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus. Besides the name and the distance from Jerusalem, searchers were guided by other clues. For example, they were looking for ruins of an ancient town located near a Roman trade route. A water source, such as a deep well that could serve a small community, was also a key factor in the hunt. Expectations as to what was to be discovered must have been low. Many decades had passed since the events of Easter Sunday Night that immortalized the name of the village and one of its residents. As our Second Reading on this 3rd Sunday of Easter points out, the things of this world…even gold and silver…are perishable. So, barring a miracle, searchers could expect to find little more than a pile of rubble.
In fact, in at least four different locations, each about seven miles from Jerusalem, although in different directions, searchers declared that they had discovered Emmaus. Accordingly, the true location remains unresolved and the search for the “lost village” continues to this very day. Nevertheless, churches were built on several of the sites claimed to be the village where a person named Cleopas and his unnamed traveling companion entertained the Risen Christ. The faithful began to walk the walk that two dejected disciples made on that fateful Easter evening.
Centuries have passed, and still, pilgrims travel from Jerusalem to one of the “Emmauses.” As they embark on their journey, they remember how two of Jesus’s followers made the long walk home, the horror of Good Friday still fresh in their minds, the shocking reality of the Crucifixion causing the dejected pair to regard the whispers of Resurrection as false…rather than Good News!
As pilgrims draw closer to their destination, they often read and reflect on today’s Gospel. They recall how a stranger joined the pair, and how His words made their hearts burn within them. The Gospel report is sufficient to enable believers to feel The Real Presence of this Stranger and to ponder His explanation of the Good Friday tragedy foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures. The walk to Emmaus…whichever Emmaus…does that. It offers an AHHH! moment, even to those who think they already know all there is to know. The destination is not just a village, but also a new insight into The Paschal Mystery. To this very day, the seven-mile walk from Jerusalem towards…whichever Emmaus…causes the hearts of the faithful to burn within them.
Upon arrival, Cleopas and friend did not want to let this stranger go. They urged Him: Stay with us! And so He did. He entered their home and sat at their table, just long enough to Break the Bread and share The Cup. Pilgrims today, regardless of which Emmaus they journey to, very often mark their arrival by celebrating Eucharist. Hopefully, during their prayer, the hearts of the faithful burn within them, and they come to see that in the Eucharist, The Risen Christ does not disappear from our midst; rather, we become what we eat. Through the Eucharist, The Word Proclaimed, and the Body and Blood of Christ shared…we make Christ’s continued presence a reality for others.
Our Gospel for this 3rd Sunday of Easter, Luke 24:13-35, truly is a treasure map. The starting point is an empty tomb. The journey is not measured in miles, but in lifetimes. Every step of the way, there is a Companion eager to accompany those brave enough to embark on the journey. Those wise enough to listen to His Words find that their hearts burn within them. The destination is not the ruins of an ancient village over which a commemorative Church has been built. Emmaus is EVERY Church, worldwide, where we celebrate the Supper of The Lord. The Treasure is not hidden. It sits out in the open…on The Table of the Word…where The Good News is proclaimed so that all may rejoice in the truth. The Treasure is also on the Communion Table, where the imperishable Treasure of the Body and Precious Blood of Christ, ”the spotless, unblemished lamb” awaits those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
There is something miraculous to be found by those invited to these Tables. They are changed! Their faith and hope in God is strengthened so that they might continue their pilgrimage towards a final, eternal destination…The Kingdom of God!
Today’s Gospel truly is a treasure map! But what we search for is not hidden. It is right before our very eyes! And there is a Companion eager to walk beside you every step of the way.