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The way, the truth and the life

April 27, 2017
Father Joseph Previtali

The Road to Emmaus, seven miles and 50 paces from Jerusalem, is the Road to Faith in the Risen Lord Jesus, Who is signified by the eighth mile, having inaugurated the Eighth Day of Creation by His Resurrection. “The disciples therefore as they walk and converse about the Lord had completed the sixth mile of their journey, for they were grieving that He who had lived without blame, had come at length even to death, which He underwent on the sixth day,” explains St. Bede. “They had completed also the seventh mile, for they doubted not that He rested in the grave. But of the eighth mile they had only accomplished half; for the glory of His already triumphant resurrection, they did not believe perfectly.”

St. Cleophas is one of these disciples. He was Jesus’s uncle, the brother of St. Joseph, the husband of “the other Mary,” the father of St. James the Less and St. Jude Thaddeus, the grandfather of St. James the Greater and St. John the Evangelist. The other disciple is not named by St. Luke. St. Ambrose tells us his name is Ammaon. The two friends were deeply saddened by the death of Jesus, Who seemed to them a failure in the work of establishing an earthly kingdom of Israel. Jesus encounters them on the road, in the midst of their despair. 

Jesus appears to His uncle and the other disciple under a changed appearance so that they could not recognize Him because the eyes of their souls could not yet recognize His Resurrection. He had come to reveal to them the Eighth Day of Creation on the eighth mile of their journey. Thus, He reveals Himself to their inward vision before He allows them to see Him with their eyes. And so, after rebuking them strongly for their unbelief, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures.”

“As if He said: Since you are slow I will render you quick, by explaining to you the mysteries of the Scriptures,” St. John Chrysostom tells us. “For the sacrifice of Abraham, when releasing Isaac he sacrificed the ram, prefigured Christ’s sacrifice. But in the other writings of the Prophets also there are scattered about mysteries of Christ’s cross and the resurrection.”

The two disciples, having been taught by Truth Himself, now are full of faith in the Resurrection. Their inward eyes have been enlightened. Their hearts are burning with faith and love. This is the fruitfulness of the preaching of Jesus Christ. And so they beg this mysterious Preacher, a “prophet,” as they had described Jesus, to remain with them in Emmaus for supper. (Tradition tells us that St. Cleophas lived in Emmaus and died a martyr for His Divine Nephew there, as well.) As they sit at their dinner together at Cleophas’ house, Our Lord shows the reality of His Risen Body by eating with them. Then He transforms the bread into His Most Sacred Body and gives them Holy Communion. St. Luke relates that after they had eaten the Eucharistic Body of the Lord “their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.” 

St. Theophylact explains that this happened to show “that the eyes of those who receive the sacred bread are opened that they should know Christ. For the Lord’s flesh has in it a great and ineffable power.” The disciples, after receiving Our Lord sacramentally, recall how their hearts were burning within them as they received Him intellectually and spiritually in the interpretation of the Scriptures. 

The encounter with the Risen Lord related here is meant for all of us, to teach us that we encounter the Risen Jesus in the Sacred Liturgy and in the life of the Catholic Church. In the Liturgy, He is given to us spiritually as the Bread of our minds and hearts in the Liturgy of the Word and sacramentally as the Bread of Life in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the life of the Church, we encounter Him alive, truly Risen, in the spiritual sight given by the doctrine of the faith and the touching of His Risen Power in the sacraments. Jesus Christ is alive! We find Him in the truth of the Catholic Faith and the power of the Catholic Sacraments!

St. Cleophas and his friend were transformed by this encounter. They ran back to Jerusalem – traveling dangerously the seven miles and 50 paces in the evening. They proclaim the Good News with great joy, only to receive the Good News themselves: “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Eventually they would give their lives for Him, as the ultimate witness to His Resurrection. This is our destiny, as well. This is what it means to walk the Road to Emmaus, the Road to Eternal Happiness. 

Previtali_Fr. Joseph - web 100x125Father Previtali is administrator at Our Lady of the Pillar Parish, Half Moon Bay.

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