3rd Sunday of Easter (A)
On the Road to Emmaus
Looking for the key to an understanding of the Scriptures
Luke 24, 13-35
1. Opening prayer
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with
the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus.
In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover
the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death.
Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them
the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation
and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor
and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples
from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness
to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice
and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us
the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
a) A key to guide the reading:
Let us read the text where Luke presents Jesus as interpreting the
Scriptures. As we read, let us seek to discover the various steps taken
by Jesus in the process of this interpretation, from the moment he meets
the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, to the time the disciples meet
with the community in Jerusalem.
b) A division of the text to assist a careful reading:
Lk 24,13-24: Jesus tries to find out what it is that is making the
two disciples distressed.
Lk 24,25-27: Jesus sheds the light of Scripture on the situation of
the two disciples.
Lk 24,28-32: Jesus shares the bread and celebrates with the disciples.
Lk 24,33-35: The two disciples go to Jerusalem and share their experience
of the resurrection with the community.
c) The text:
13-24: Now that very same day, two of them were on their
way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they
were talking together about all that had happened. And it happened that
as they were talking together and discussing it, Jesus himself came
up and walked by their side; but their eyes were prevented from recognising
him. He said to them, 'What are all these things that you are discussing
as you walk along?' They stopped, their faces downcast. Then one of
them, called Cleopas, answered him, 'You must be the only person staying
in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there
these last few days.' He asked, 'What things?' They answered, 'All about
Jesus of Nazareth, who showed himself a prophet powerful in action and
speech before God and the whole people; and how our chief priests and
our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified.
Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And
this is not all: two whole days have now gone by since it all happened;
and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb
in the early morning, and when they could not find the body, they came
back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was
alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly
as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.'
Then he said to them, 'You foolish men! So slow to believe all that
the prophets have said! Was it not necessary that the Christ should
suffer before entering into his glory?' Then, starting with Moses and
going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout
the scriptures that were about himself.
28-32: When they drew near to the village to which they were
going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them
saying, 'It is nearly evening, and the day is almost over.' So he went
in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the
bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them.
And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished
from their sight. Then they said to each other, 'Did not our hearts
burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures
33-35: They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There
they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, 34 who
said to them, 'The Lord has indeed risen and has appeared to Simon.'
35 Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how
they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What part did you like best in this text? Why?
b) What steps did Jesus take in interpreting the Scriptures from the
time he met the two friends on the road up to the time the disciples
went to the community in Jerusalem?
c) In what manner of situation does Jesus meet the two disciples?
d) What are the similarities and the differences between our present
situation and that of the two disciples? What factors create a crisis
of faith in our day and are the cause of sadness?
e) What was the effect of Jesusí reading of the Bible on the life of
the two disciples?
f) Which points in the interpretation made by Jesus are a critique of
our way of reading the Bible, and which are a confirmation?
5. A key to the reading
for those who wish to go deeper into the text.
a) The context in which Luke is writing:
* Luke is writing in about the year 85 for the Greek
community of Asia Minor, who were living in difficult circumstances,
due to factors both external and internal. Internally, there were divergent
tendencies that made life together difficult: ex-Pharisees who wanted
to impose the law of Moses (Acts 15,1); those who followed John the
Baptist more and who had not even heard of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19,1-6);
Jews who used the name of Jesus to drive out demons (Acts 19,13); and
those who said they were followers of Peter, others of Paul, others
of Apollo, and others of Christ (1Cor 1,12). Externally, persecution
by the Roma Empire was growing (Ap 1,9-10; 2,3.10.13; 6,9-10; 12,16)
plus the insidious infiltration of the dominant ideology of the Empire
and of the official religion, much the same way communism today infiltrates
all aspects of our life (Ap 2,14.20; 13,14-16).
* Luke is writing to these communities that he may
give them a sure direction in the midst of their difficulties and so
that they may find the strength and light in living out their faith
in Jesus. Luke writes a two volume work: the Gospel and the Acts, and
he has the same general aim, "to learn how well founded the teaching
is that you have received" (Lk 1,4). One of his specific aims is
to show, through the beautiful story of the two disciples from Emmaus,
how the community ought to read and interpret the Bible. In reality,
those walking the streets of Emmaus were the communities (and all of
us). Each of us is and all of us together are companions of Cleophas
(Lk 24,18). With him we walk the streets of life, seeking a word of
support and of guidance in the Word of God.
* The way Luke narrates the meeting of Jesus with the
disciples from Emmaus, tells us how the communities of his time used
the Bible and practised what we today call the Lectio Divina
or Prayerful Reading of the Bible. They used three aspects or steps
in interpreting the Bible:
b) The steps or aspects used in the process of interpreting
First step: Start from facts (Lk 24,13-24):
Jesus meets the two friends who are experiencing feelings of fear and
dispersion, of lack of trust and dismay. They were fleeing. The force
of death, the cross, had killed in them all hope. Jesus approaches them
and walks with them. He listens to their conversation and says: "What
matters are you discussing as you walk along?" The prevailing ideology
prevents them from understanding and having a critical conscience. "Our
own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free, butÖ"
(Lk 24,21). What do those who suffer talk about today? What matters
today put our faith in a state of crisis?
The first step is this: to approach people, listen to reality, problems;
be capable of asking questions that help to look at reality more critically.
Second step: Make use of the Bible (Lk 24,25-27)
Jesus uses the Bible, not in order to give lessons on the Bible, but
to shed light on the problem worrying the two friends, and thus shed
light on the situation they were experiencing. With the help of the
Bible, Jesus leads the two disciples into Godís plan and shows them
that God has not allowed history to go astray. Jesus does not use the
Bible as an expert who knows everything, but as a companion who wishes
to help his friends to remember things they had forgotten, namely, Moses
and the Prophets. Jesus does not give his friends the feeling of being
ignorant, but seeks to create an ambient within which they can remember
and thus arouse their memory.
The second step is this: with the help of the Bible, to shed light on
the situation and transform the cross, symbol of death, into a symbol
of life and of hope. In this manner, that which prevents us from seeing,
becomes light and strength along our way.
Third step: Celebrating and sharing in community
The Bible alone does not open their eyes but makes their hearts burn!
(Lk 24,32). That which opens the eyes of the friends and allows them
to discover the presence of Jesus is the sharing of the bread, the communitarian
gesture, the celebration. As soon as they recognise Jesus, he disappears.
And they then experience the resurrection, they are reborn and walk
on their own. Jesus does not take over his friendsí journey. He is not
paternalistic. Now that they are risen, the disciples can walk on their
own two feet.
The third step is this: we must know how to create a prayerful and fraternal
atmosphere where the Spirit is free to act. It is the Spirit who allows
us to discover and experience the Word of God in our lives and leads
us to understand the meaning of Jesusí words (Jn 14,26; 16,13). It is
especially at this point of the celebration that the practice of basic
ecclesial communities, sustained by the margins of the world, help us
religious once more to come across and drink from the ancient well of
Aim: To rise and go towards Jerusalem
Everything has changed in the two disciples. They themselves rise, regain
courage and go back to Jerusalem, where the forces of death that killed
Jesus are still at work, but where also there are the forces of life
in the sharing of the experience of the resurrection. Courage in place
of fear. Return in place of flight. Faith in place of its absence. Hope
in place of despair. A critical conscience in place of fatalism before
power. Freedom in place of oppression. In a word, life in place of death!
And in place of the news of the death of Jesus, the Good News of his
This is the aim of reading the Bible: to experience the presence of
Jesus and of his Spirit in our midst. It is the Spirit who opens our
eyes to the Bible and to reality and draws us to share the experience
of the Resurrection, as it is true even to this day, in community meetings.
c) The new way of Jesus: a prayerful reading of
* Often, it is not possible to understand whether the
use of the OT in the Gospels comes from Jesus or an explanation given
by early Christians who sought to express their faith in Jesus in this
way. However, what cannot be denied is the frequent and constant use
of the Bible by Jesus. A simple reading of the Gospels shows us that
Jesus found his bearings in the Scriptures in the performance of his
mission and in instructing his disciples and the crowd.
* At the root of Jesusí reading of the Bible is his
experience of God as Father. His intimate relationship with the Father
gives Jesus a new criterion, which places him in direct contact with
the author of the Bible. Jesus looks for meaning at the very source.
He does not go from the writings to their root, but from the root to
the writings. The comparison of the photo, as described in the Lectio
Divina of Easter Sunday, helps us to shed light on this topic. As
by a miracle, the photo of the harsh face was lit up and acquired traits
of great tenderness. The words, born of the lived experience of the
son, transformed everything, without changing anything (see Lectio
Divina for Easter Sunday).
* Thus, looking through the photos of the Old Testament,
people in the time of Jesus, formed an idea of a very distant God, harsh,
difficult to contact, whose name could not even be mouthed. But Jesusí
words and actions, born of his experience as Son, without changing even
one word (Mt 5,18-19), transformed the whole meaning of the Old Testament.
The God who seemed to be so distant and harsh acquires the features
of a Father full of tenderness, always present, ready to welcome and
liberate! This Good News of God, communicated by Jesus, is the new key
to a re-reading of the whole of the Old Testament. The New Testament
is a re-reading of the Old Testament done in the light of the new experience
of God, revealed by Jesus. This different way of shedding light on life
in the light of the Word of God, creates for him many conflicts, because
it renders the small of this world critical, while it makes the great
* When interpreting the Bible to the people, Jesus
revealed the traits of Godís face, the experience that he experienced
of God as Father. To reveal God as Father was the source and
aim of the Good News of Jesus. By his attitude, Jesus manifests Godís
love for his disciples. He reveals the Father and incarnates his love!
Jesus was able to say, "To have seen me is to have seen the Father"
(Jn 14,9). Hence, the Fatherís Spirit was also with Jesus (Lk 4,18)
and went with him everywhere, from the incarnation (Lk 1,35) to the
beginning of his mission (Lk 4,14), even to the end, his death and resurrection
* Jesus, interpreter, educator and master, was a meaningful
person in the life of his disciples. He influenced their lives forever.
To interpret the Bible does not mean just to teach truth for the other
to live by. The content that Jesus wished to convey was not limited
to words, but included actions and his way of relating to people. The
content is never separate from the person who communicates it. The goodness
and love that emerge from his words are part of the content. They are
his nature. Good content without goodness is like spilt milk.
6. Psalm 23 (22)
God is our inheritance forever
I shall not want;
he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou prepares a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled
us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten
our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word
has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen
to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.