(The ideas in the opening paragraphs are based on an article “Beyond Hope” by Sister Barbara E. Reid, O.P. which appeared in America Magazine March 29, 2010, p. 31)
In today’s Gospel story two of Jesus’ disciples are in the midst of terrible anguish. They’re making their way home from Jerusalem on the first Easter afternoon despondent and disillusioned, not sure what to make of everything that had taken place during the past few days. They were trying to make sense of their shocking experience but weren’t yet able to do so.
Jesus listens patiently as they tell their story because he respects where they are on their journey. And does the same with each of us; we are each at a different stage on our journey with and toward the Risen One, each seeing something different in our suffering and struggles, and each needing to interpret those experiences in our own words.
Jesus asked his two disciples to begin by describing as best they could what they had experienced and how they understood what had happened. He invites us to do the same. But when we do so we like the two disciples will have only traveled the first part of the journey. The next step involves the eyes of faith, and specifically the help of sacred scripture where we find so many helps to understanding God’s mysterious plan.
When Jesus began to “open the scriptures” to the two disciples as they walked along, their hearts began to burn within them: the meaning of the story started to come into focus. When we walk with them and immerse ourselves in the whole story of God’s love for us “beginning with Moses and all the prophets,” we too can come to see a little more deeply into Jesus’ life and mission.
They didn’t recognize him at first because they were not looking for a crucified messiah. They were not aware that the Savior would have to suffer and die. After Jesus explained this mystery to them by quoting the scriptures, they were ready to recognize him in the breaking of the bread.
It still took an act of faith on their part to believe what he had said and to recognize him when he broke the bread. The risen Lord challenges us in the same way to recognize his comforting presence with us along the road of suffering in our lives.
He challenges us further to be his comforting presence for others who are on the same road, especially those who are most vulnerable and most in need of Christ’s comforting presence.
Sister Barbara ends her article this way: “No words adequately express our experience of what it is like to have him risen among us. Resurrected life far exceeds all our hopes and is far more than a happy ending to a tragic story. It is not only what happened to Jesus, but it is already lived by us, whose lives are ‘hidden with Christ in God,’ as Paul says. It is not only the end of a life’s journey, but is tasted already now, all along the way. It is beyond all that we had hoped and even now sets our hearts burning within us.”