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Luke 24:13-36 : A Word that Illumines and Transforms

3pb 01Duccio di Buoninsegna, Italy, “Maestà”Two of the Master’s disciples distance themselves from Jerusalem by hitting the road toward the village of Emmaus.

It is their way to take leave from a story that ended badly, leaving their hearts loaded with sorrow, disappointment and hopelessness.  Drawing away from the city that, in the Gospel according to Luke, is the center of Jesus’ ministry and the only place where the Risen One is met, they separate themselves even from the community of those men and women with whom they had followed the Master.

They recognize that things truly had not gone as they would have liked, that Jesus did not bring the liberation they much yearned for themselves and for all the people of Israel.

Their hearts are perhaps weighed down by the bitterness of having trusted  a man who had failed, and the regret of having invested their time and energy following a Rabbi who was now dead.

Suddenly, the unexpected happens: a stranger comes up and begins to walk with them.  By asking some questions he gives the two a chance to talk, to name things and let out what pained them and weighed them down.  He welcomes them in their hope now vanished, in that story now branded and wounded.

At some point, however, the stranger takes the floor: there is a folly of the heart preventing them from understanding the deeper truth of the events they had lived through.  He says that the only light that can illumine them and make a sense out of it is the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, which he designates as the climactic fulfillment of the Scriptures.

The key to life is contained in the mystery of a Word that must be held and cherished, of which Jesus, in his wisdom, becomes interpreter and teacher.  The Word of God gives us a “code” to decipher our human sadness, to discover its causes and find a cure.  In it we read the story written by God in the history of humankind, a model story, shedding a light to guide us and to show us God’s way of walking with people.  The words of Jesus, burning in their hearts, rekindle their hope, rousing in them the desire to call him to stay as the night falls, urging the need for companionship.

3pb 02Ivan Rupnik, Slovenia “Emmaus”And in his way of breaking the bread there is a sign that renews the dynamics of the One who “loved them to the end” of his passion.  The two recognize that the stranger is their Risen Lord.  Their eyes can see because they realize, in their heart and mind, that hope and consolation lie hidden in the mystery of his suffering and death that had not been extinguished by the cross, and they are now  willing to accept what they had rejected with disgust.
At that point Jesus becomes “invisible” to their eyes, but it is not said that He had left.  They understand that He is still present as He had been already next to them when they were immersed in their sadness, well before they even noticed him.

Luke points to the disciples the celebration of the Word and the Eucharist as a meeting place with the Risen One along the paths of their life and of history, visible only through the eyes of faith.  This looking back on their personal history changes them as it becomes possible for them to discern a new meaning in the events, so much so as to make them return to the place from which they had fled.

Their encounter with the Risen One makes them return to Jerusalem, reintegrating themselves to the community of believers in the midst of which quite immediately after the Lord will make himself seen and heard, giving them all that peace which brings a fullness of life.  The two, despite not having received any clear mandate, spontaneously tell the others what they had gone through and how they thereby became witnesses to confirm the faith of their brothers and sisters, by revealing how Christ is present whenever the Word is prayed and the Eucharist, celebrated.

Questions for reflection

Who do I go to when I need to “unload” or am pained or weighed down?  Do I go to Jesus and listen to His wisdom?

Are we willing to find hope and consolation HIDDEN in the present “unknowns” of religious life by continuing to bring the PEACE of Jesus of the Eucharist to others?


3pb 03 The Ancient Appian Way, RomeIn the light of the Risen Christ who walks with us, the disciples of Emmaus knew how to keep the memory of their experience alive; they were able to re-read it and give a name to the bitterness and disappointment that they carried in their hearts. Seized by the amazement of the resurrection, they retraced their steps on the road back to Jerusalem with new-found faith and hope, walking over the same stones that, earlier, they had crossed with wounded hearts.

Stones are the most ancient testimony of our mother earth and of her life throughout the ages. All through history, women and men have used stones to build the first utensils and subsequently to construct their own dwellings, beginning with the most simple and ancient and moving on to the most solid and majestic. With the passing of the centuries, many of these constructions were destroyed, but with those very same stones, new realities and new places of life were constructed.  

It is typical of Italian culture to preserve the memory of what has given value and meaning to the past. In all cities of art we can admire buildings and monuments that have been preserved as testimonials of history and of a priceless inheritance.

3pb 04St. Clement Basilica, Roma
3pb 05Views of the three levels of the Basilica of St. Clement, Rome From the drawing: The present Basilica (built in the 12th century); the Basilica as it was in the 4th century A.D.; the Roman Domus (1st century A.D.)

The traces of this process of “reconstructing/renovating” are seen in many works of Italian architecture. Beautiful buildings, rich with new life, have come to life out of the solid foundations of ancient structures:  old ruins transformed into splendid farmhouses, temples and patrician houses from Roman times turned into Christian churches.
One example of this is the Basilica of St. Clement in Rome, one of the most ancient churches, which is truly rich with history.    

The basilica that we see today was built in the 12th century and restructured over time. The complex has taken on great importance because it stands on two layers of ancient, buried buildings. The oldest of these layers dates back to the 1st century A.D.

The three levels, still visible to this day, are: (1) the present basilica, from medieval times; (2) the ancient basilica, built out of a Roman Patrician house; and (3) a grouping of Roman constructions from the post-Nero Era. On a fourth level, underneath all of the above, there are traces of more ancient Roman buildings.

This is a concrete example of what it means to re-interpret ancient things with the idea of giving them new forms.

The various transformations of this basilica can serve as sources of inspiration for our journey, helping us to value the memory of our lived experience in order to re-read the past with new light and wisdom. It is important to give a name and meaning to the events that we have lived in order to re-design new journeys:  what gives value to life is also what we ourselves have become, thanks to the experiences we have lived.

The technique of reutilizing pre-existing structures to give shape to new buildings can teach us to welcome the past by seeking new responses to the calls of present life, to launch ourselves into the future.

Let us welcome the invitation to overcome that foolishness of the heart that prevents us from understanding the truth and the meaning of the history that God writes for us. Indeed, all of our experiences examined in the light of the Resurrection can come together to form the foundation and the solid roots for unexpected transformations, for new perspectives on life, and for beautiful deeds, all of which are more relevant to the present day and more courageous.

Written and presented by sr Maria Francesca Musumeci, Casa Betania Community

The disciples find themselves in the act of walking on their journey. Walking is an activity that is so normal we do not even notice when we are doing it, and yet walking is a permanent act of faith.  We put one foot in front of the other, and in doing so, we are constantly throwing ourselves off-balance, breaking our equilibrium, wagering that our foot will find a support and that it will be able to re-stabilize everything.  But this new stability only lasts for an instant because soon after another step follows, and another break in our equilibrium occurs. Yet walking is the only way we have to move forward and so it is as if we are being told that our conscience requires a moment of imbalance in order to enter into movement.  

Stella Morra, Theologian


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Published: February, 11, 2016