Jesus conquered Satan, sin and death through His Passion, Death and Resurrection. The Easter season lasts through the end of May as we continue celebrating this divine victory that has eternal ramifications for us. It can be relatively easy to move on with a busy life, somehow glossing over the most important event in all of history—the resurrection—that changes everything by giving meaning to our life, death and eternal existence with God.
One way to keep alive the joy of the empty tomb on Easter is to read and think about a passage from the Bible on the resurrection appearances of Jesus. He appeared to many people and spoke important messages to them that also apply to us today. Let’s look at Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 24, verses 13 to 35 as an example of how to find the Person of Christ in the Scriptures and deepen our relationship with Him.
This Bible passage recounts the interaction Jesus had with two of His disciples as they left Jerusalem without hope, thinking that all was lost. Jesus had been crucified, and the disciples were sad and perplexed in not being able to piece together all the dreadful events of the past few days. They were wondering what they were to do, as they supposed the One they believed to be the Savior was in the tomb—dead. Jesus walked with them along the seven-mile road to Emmaus, but “their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.”
As Jesus joined up with the disciples on their journey, He asked them what they were talking about. Cleopas explained that they were speaking about Jesus of Nazareth. This was significant, because Cleopas was a close follower, but in this conversation, he did not refer to Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah or the Savior, only as “Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet … whom they had hoped was the One to redeem Israel.”
Cleopas further explained to the One walking with them that it was now the third day since Jesus’ crucifixion and some women had gone to the tomb early in the morning. They did not find His body, but “had seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. Some … went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see.” The fact that Cleopas and the other disciples were leaving Jerusalem when they heard about the empty tomb speaks of their confusion and fear.
Jesus responded to the two disciples, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” Jesus then proceeded with the two-fold purpose He had for this day-long walk. The first reason was to clarify the Scriptures: “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, the Lord explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.” Jesus helped them to know that He indeed is our Savior and Lord, who came to fulfill all of the promises of the Old Testament. The purpose of Christ taking on human flesh was to restore us as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father due to our separation from Him that began with our first parents’ choice to disobey Him.
As we ponder Jesus’ words, we will experience ‘our hearts burning within us.
Jesus’ second reason was to reveal Himself and His love for them through giving the disciples His Risen Body and Blood in holy Communion. As they approached their destination, Jesus walked on as if He were going farther. But the two constrained Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening.” So Jesus accepted their invitation. When Jesus was seated at table with them, “He took the bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” At this point, after receiving the holy Eucharist—Jesus Himself—they now recognized Him, but He disappeared from their sight while He “stayed” with them in their heart. They questioned each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” Then the two disciples immediately set out for Jerusalem, returning to the Eleven Apostles who told them that Jesus was indeed alive as He had appeared to Peter. At that point, the disciples recounted their own personal story of what had happened to them on the road to Emmaus, “how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
This encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, with His explanation of the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread, provides the foundation for the two parts of the Mass. The first major part is the Liturgy of the Word, where we hear the anointed Word of God—a reading from the Old Testament, followed by a Psalm and a second reading, and then, most importantly, a reading from one of the four Gospels. The homily by the priest or deacon is to break open the readings for us by helping us to understand their meaning, making the connections between the Old and New Testament and applying the Scriptures to our lives.
The second major part of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Just as Jesus took the bread, blessed and broke and gave it to the two disciples at Emmaus, the priest stands in for the Person of Christ and repeats what Our Lord did. Using the very words of Jesus, the priest prays the words and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. In the Eucharist—referred to as the “breaking of bread” in earliest times—Christ makes present within time the mystery of His death and resurrection. In holy Communion, we receive the Word made flesh—Jesus—who empowers us to live out the message we heard from the Scriptures.
What can we learn from the encounter of the two disciples with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus? We will want to prepare our hearts for a careful listening of the Word of God at Mass. It helps tremendously to look over the readings beforehand, becoming more familiar with the details. As we ponder Jesus’ words, we will experience “our hearts burning within us.”
When we receive Jesus in holy Communion, our eyes of Faith will be opened to the reality that it is truly Our Lord, and how much He loves us. It is appropriate to be continually thankful for Jesus’ presence in the holy Eucharist—the incredible gift that He promised. It is important to remember that Jesus wants to “stay with us,” and so let us invite Him to remain with us, that He can change us more fully into His likeness.
Amidst life’s joys and difficulties, and even our disappointments, Jesus continues to walk at our side, opening to us the Scriptures, giving Himself to us in the Eucharist and leading us to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of God. Let’s not let this Easter season get by us without sharing in the graces and benefits which the Lord wants to give us. As a constant reminder, we can follow the example of the early Church during the 40 days after Easter. The Christians would greet each other with the quintessential words, “Jesus Christ is Risen!”
Are You Looking for More?
If you desire to learn more about finding Jesus in the Scriptures and realizing the deepest desire of your heart—to grow in your relationship with Him—there will be a wonderful opportunity on Aug. 7 to attend the virtual Witnesses for Christ Conference. Dr. Petroc Willey, an internationally known teacher, who speaks on a level that everyone can understand, will be the keynote presenter. Visit diolc.org/witness for more information and to register. Cost is $10.
Director of the Office for Catechesis and Evangelization