The Emmausene Christmas: a reflection on this week’s gospel (Luke 24:13-35)

This week’s gospel is the famous and much loved Road to Emmaus. It is among my favourites. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is another form of the Christmas story. I know, I know! Straight after Easter, right?!

There are few features that makes this story Christmasy, though clearly absent are the Blessed Virgin Mary, angels and the wise men. I propose, for sake of brevity, that Jesus is the star that points the way to the wise and the heavenly messenger to the simple-hearted.

– Before the appearance of Christ at Christmas the world was still awaiting the Saviour to come. This Saviour would restore the hope and fortune of the chosen people of God, renew peace in the world by abolishing oppressive forces, and guide a lost people back to a loving God.

On the road to Emmaus Jesus restores hope to saddened people, replaces the overpowering sense of loss and frustration with renewed hope, and the two disciples return to Jerusalem, the house of God, with an invigorated faith.

– Christ comes unrecognized among people. There are a few signs, in the form of prophets, pointing to him but he choses to reveal himself at his time and in his way.

Incognito, Jesus walk with his faithful discussing these signs that point to him as the Messiah. Discussing the prophets first, Jesus later reveals himself as their fulfillment.

– When he finally reveals his identity it calls for a change. Yet this change becomes unifying or segregating.

At Nazareth Joseph and Mary lives were changed through angelic messengers; the wise men began their journey when the stars foretold the coming. But Herod remained unchanged and more resolute in his ways. At Emmaus, following the revelation of Jesus the two turn back and meet the other disciples thus becoming unified with a each other (through faith) while being segregated from the world which lives in doubt and stubbornness.

Joy results. Love is revealed. Hope is renewed. The lost are found. It demands from us a decision. We may not always recognize Jesus in our lives (and that is OK, Jesus is there nonetheless) but when we do recognize him, what are we going to do about it? Are we united in faith?

Our faith is sacramental in that it is grounded in a physical reality but points to a deeper mystery. It was through the breaking of bread (clearly Eucharistic) that Jesus chose to reveal himself. A link to Bethlehem – the “house of Bread”?

Jesus is the bread of life. He his also the one who lights our way in the dark, the one who finds us when lost, the one who unlocks wisdom to the wise and the one who offers unity and an encounter with the Incarnated God, the Risen Lord. And this encounter demands a choice – for unity or for segregation. Chose this day who you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord.

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