The gospel story of the disciples' encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus is of great liturgical significance. Many scholars believe that this event inspired, at least to some extent, the framework of the Mass. That framework, as we still know it, is, reading from Scripture... Instruction... Profession of faith... and Eucharist. Another look at today's gospel will show that this is the precise order of events.
"And Jesus, beginning with Moses and all of the prophets, interpreted for them, all of the things referring to himself." They listened to him intently, and when he had finished, they expressed their confidence in him. It was after that, that they came to recognize him in the breaking of bread. It is all there! Scripture, instruction, profession of faith, Eucharist.
Luke, in writing his gospel, 62 to 65 years after the Resurrection, is intent upon teaching the Church that the Mass is a real encounter with the risen Christ. An encounter of faith, very similar to the experience enjoyed by the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
This is not, then, simply an edifying story. It contains valuable insights into our relationship with the risen Lord. First of all, the Scriptures lead us toward Christ. They proclaim that Jesus is truly the Saviour foretold by the prophets. The Scriptures dispose us and prepare us. But for recognition to take place, contact must be made and this is where the Liturgy of the Eucharist comes in... Communion, "Holy" Communion because it is primarily with Christ and ultimately with each other.
True, this takes faith and it might have been simpler if our communion with Him were in a more conventional way. But, like it or not, it is evident that the risen Christ can be recognized only in the light of faith. Mary Magdalen required faith to recognize him in the gardener in the cemetery. The same was true of his disciples, both on the shore of Galilee and on the road to Emmaus.
Like Thomas, we will always have our doubts and we will yearn for evidence that will satisfy our senses, but Jesus has chosen to encounter us at the level of faith because the implications of that encounter embrace realities, which are not detectable through the senses. Realities such as divine nature and eternal life. We must remember that such an act of faith on our part is made both possible and certain by the same God who has designed us to touch and to see. The latter are part of our limited human inheritance, but the ability to accept on faith results from our creator's desire to carry us beyond the purely human, to lift us up beyond our basic nature, to open for us a supernatural dimension. It is at this level, the level of faith, that we find the full significance of life itself.