3rd Sunday of Easter – April 23, 2023
Mass for Scouts

The road to Emmaus story is one of the great and memorable stories that have come down to us in the scriptures.  For all of its marvelous elements, however, it is interesting to note that biblical scholars and archaeologists have yet to definitively determine precisely where the little town of Emmaus was located.  And maybe that’s just as well.  The way the gospel is written, the road to Emmaus account in the scriptures is the story of every one of us and our own personal journeys of faith. 

Let’s look at the gospel again.  The story takes place on the afternoon of the day of Jesus’ resurrection.  Two disciples of Jesus were making the seven-mile trip to the village of Emmaus.  Being identified as disciples, it’s clear from the start that they were far more than mere disinterested observers of the events that had taken place in Jerusalem a few days earlier.  Their world had just been turned upside down.  The one in whom they had invested their lives had been put to death as a criminal.  Their conversation was, no doubt, punctuated by shock, anger and sadness over the great injustice that had befallen their revered rabbi, Jesus – along with a certain sense of confusion and bewilderment as they reveal that some from their group have announced that he was alive!  Like any of us who have ever faced such tragedy and upheaval, they were vulnerable – open to whatever they might hear that could provide them with some sense of understanding of all that had happened in their friend’s life – and in their own.

Unexpectedly, the two were joined by a stranger who asked them what they were talking about with such passion.  The stranger then explained – to their astonishment – the meaning of each of the events of the past week.  When they reached the village, the two disciples asked the stranger to remain with them.  And, in words from Luke’s gospel that we have come to treasure, the two disciples came to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

What’s most interesting is that the disciples in the Emmaus story – for all of the disparate feelings that they were experiencing – maintained two very crucial attitudes in their lives that enabled them to recognize and encounter the risen Jesus.  First, their hearts and minds were open to something more.  And second, they had learned through Jesus to move beyond themselves in response to their brothers and sisters. 

They could have closed their hearts and been bitter, but they didn’t.  Instead, they were searching – grasping at anything that would have enabled them to make sense of all that had happened and all that they were hearing.  …  It was in that attitude of openness – of being vulnerable to a stranger and ultimately to God – that Jesus began the process of revealing himself to them. 

Their openness set the stage for the encounter with Jesus, but it was in the gesture of hospitality as the disciples invited the stranger to stay with them and to share in their food that they came to recognize Jesus in their midst.

At the very moment when they forgot themselves and their disappointments and hurts; the moment when they focused on the well-being of another, that Jesus became known to them in the breaking of the bread.  …  The good deed – the reaching out – the act of service – revealed the risen Jesus, who was there all along.

So often, we’re inclined to think that we’re at some sort of disadvantage in the Church today when it comes to encountering the risen Jesus.  The Emmaus story, however, was saved by the early Church to remind us that two of Jesus’ disciples – on the very day of the resurrection – experienced him alive in their midst in exactly the same way that we do today.  …  They were open to the power of God.  …  They listened with care to His Word.  …  And then they came to know Jesus in their hearts through the breaking of the bread.  …  They encountered Jesus by doing exactly what we do during this moment of prayer – during this Mass.

Yet just as importantly, my friends, the point of entry for Jesus into the lives of these two disciples came when they stepped beyond their own personal needs to welcome another into their lives.  Only after an act of hospitality and service did the disciples come to recognize Jesus begin to unfold.

As Pope Francis so, so often reminds us – there is something about our life in Christ that resists solitary investigation.  It is through encounters with other persons that Jesus most reliably reveals himself.  Today’s gospel is proof enough of this reality. 

It’s hardly by accident and clearly a plan of Providence that we are celebrating scouting in the Diocese of Scranton on this 3rd Sunday of Easter.  So much of what today’s gospel reminds us of regarding the value of service, hospitality and care for one another – in and through which we encounter the Risen Lord – permeates the mission of scouting and is a powerful reminder to us of all that we are called to be as disciples of the Lord.

And so, in our desire to experience the risen Jesus, may we be wise and humble enough to maintain an attitude of openness to experiencing God – yes, in the celebration of the Eucharist with its breaking of the bread of life – but also in and through the lives that God entrusts to our care – lives that reveal to us the very presence of the risen Jesus.