Encountering the Lord Jesus like the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus

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By Father Rich Tomkosky

This past Sunday, we heard the powerful account of the two disciples speaking to the Lord Jesus on the road to Emmaus. There are many spiritual lessons for us to learn from this account, but the most important is that the Lord Jesus is calling each of us to a deeper personal relationship with Him. Let us look at what is going on in this journey to Emmaus.

“Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”

The two disciples did not recognize Jesus in their midst. Why? It may very well be that they were blind to His presence because of the suffering, pain, and grief that they were still experiencing from the very death of Jesus on the Cross. Suffering, pain, and grief are make-or-break spiritual realities. They either draw us closer to God or farther away from Him. It’s a difficult situation, but if we let God work, He wants to use the mystery of the Cross (i.e., various sorts of suffering, pain and grief) to bring us to the glory the Resurrection (i.e., new life in Him). In reality, nothing in this earthly life can draw us closer to God or farther away from Him than suffering, pain, and grief. It all depends on whether we respond to the grace of drawing close to Him amid our trials and tribulations, despite our confusion, discouragement, and weariness during it. If we are spiritually honest, we know that the happy times of life usually don’t mature our character and/or help us to grow spiritually nearly as much as the sufferings do. Fortunately, if we embrace the sufferings in union with Christ, even now we will experience an inner joy and peace that the world cannot understand (this is the secret of the saints), and it will one day lead to ultimate joy in God’s heavenly Kingdom.

“And it happened that, while He was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, but He vanished from their sight.”

The two disciples finally recognized Jesus was with them in the “breaking of the bread,” i.e., in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the renewal of Jesus’ one eternal Sacrifice on the Cross, in an unbloody manner. The Mass is the source and summit of our Catholic Faith. It is where we encounter the Lord Jesus most directly here on earth, and we are given strength for the journey. Also, it is where we can put things in proper perspective, especially our sufferings. Do we realize that? Have we taken the Mass for granted? If we realize what is really going on at Mass, we will never be bored at Mass! We will encounter the Lord in the opening of the Scriptures, in the Consecration, and in Communion and all the prayers of the Mass. This is also why the Church requires us to go to Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days under the pain of mortal sin. We are only excused if we are seriously sick or truly homebound. The Church as a good spiritual mother is looking out for her children, namely us, knowing that it is in the Mass that we encounter the Lord Jesus in a most personal way if we open our hearts to the grace. Truly, if we recognize Jesus in the “breaking of the bread,” i.e., at Mass, the rest of the Catholic faith falls into place. From my experience as a priest, people who appreciate the reality of the Mass also tend to appreciate the rest of the Catholic Faith. Conversely, Catholics who don’t see the Mass for what it really is, usually also ignore many other components of the Catholic faith. The Mass is the foundation for everything else we do as Catholics. When we enter into it reverently, it gives us the vision of God ever more profoundly over time.

“Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures for us?”

The disciples only became aware that their hearts were burning within them and that the meaning of the Scriptures was opened up to them after they encountered Jesus in “the breaking of the bread,” in the celebration of the Mass in Jesus’ company. The Eucharist is not just a symbol of the Last Supper. It is really the Lord Jesus – Real and Personal! Let us resolve today to humbly ask the Lord to help us to recognize Him in a deeper way at Mass (try to even come to daily Mass when you can – it is such a grace!), in the “breaking of the bread,” so our hearts may burn within us, in love, for the Lord, and give us the grace we need to embrace our crosses, help others with theirs, and to share the gift of the Catholic faith with other people. God bless you.

Father Rich Tomkosky is the Pastor of Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish in Bedford and the Pastor of Seven Dolors of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Beans Cove.