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The Supper at Emmaus by Francisco de Zurbarán

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Carlos Caso-Rosendi

The Gospel reading for this Resurrection Sunday is about the encounter of two disciples with Jesus on the way to Emmaus. For all we know, the exact location of that town is lost to history. It may have been so small that left no traceable archaeological ruins, few if any mention it outside the Gospels. The disciples are threading a road we do no know, going to a town that no longer exists, moving away from Jerusalem on the first day of the week after the saddest Friday in the history of Israel.

They have prepared the body of the Master in haste for the burial. The day was ending when Joseph of Arimathea and his men, and the women that followed Jesus, left the tomb in a somber caravan, returning to their homes to eat the Passover meal. They all arrived home and remained dressed to go, just as the Law required. The men took a small brush or hyssop and sprinkled the blood of the sacrificed lamb. Did any of them notice that their door frames resembled a cross even more, now that they were stained with droops of blood? Did any of them notice that the meat in the tray was just next to the maror (מָרוֹר) the bitter herb with a name reminding them of Miriam (מִרְיָם) that was also the name of the Blessed Mother of their Lord, Our Mater Dolorosa?

That night they were remembering the Exodus from Egypt, when another Miriam, the sister of Moses had sent little baby Moses floating down the river, so that a princess of the house of Pharaoh could see him. The ancient Nile, a road made of water carried Moses to salvation and later witness how the sons of Israel led by Moses, crossed the sea into the wilderness. The Israelites were carrying the bones of a Joseph out of Egypt to bury him in Israel. The night of Calvary, 1561 years after the first Passover, another Joseph was carrying the body of Jesus to a tomb carved into stone.

The dizzying palimpsest of types and anti-types may have amazed young John, who had a mind inclined to look for signs. We do not know, but the signs were there.

Jesus had departed from Jericho, the city that was accursed by a man who had his own name, Joshua. (Joshua 6:25-26)

“Cursed before the Lord
is the one who undertakes
to rebuild this city, Jericho:
At the cost of his firstborn son
he will lay its foundations;
at the cost of his youngest
he will set up its gates.”

In the days of King Ahab, the ancient curse reached Hiel of Bethel. Bethel is “the House of God” in Hebrew and Hiel means “God lives” the phrase so often pronounced before the sacred oaths: “As God lives…” So the strange parable grows before our eyes, a man Called “God Lives” from a place called “the House of God” sacrifices his firstborn and his youngest son to rebuild a city accursed for its sins.  ” … Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.” (1 Kings 16:34) Buried under the rubble of the first Jericho were the bones of Balaam, the prophet that had tried to curse Israel seven times.

Are you dizzy yet?

That is the place where Jesus decided to begin his last trip. That is the place where he healed the blind man who desperately called his name. (Luke 35:18-43  Mark 10:46-52) Remember that Balaam was called “a seer” but an ass had to alert him to the presence of an angel that the “seer” could not see! (Numbers 22:22-40) The blind man of Jesus time was resting next to the walls of Jericho when Jesus passed that way. When he blessed Jesus as the Son of David, Jesus approached him and instantly restored the blind man’s vision. It all occurred in such a way that the first thing that poor man saw in his life was the face of God. What a beautiful advance of the Beatific Vision!

And so Jesus moved towards Jerusalem, entered on that first day we now call Palm Sunday, mounting a colt of an ass, blessed by a crowd of Jewish pilgrims gathered there from all over the world. (John 12:12-16)

On Thursday, Jesus and his Galilean disciples gathered to celebrate the Passover because Galileans were allowed to celebrate  it one day ahead of time on those years when the Passover preceded a Saturday. Then something remarkable occurred.

When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him. For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor. So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night. (John 13: 21-30)

Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples, receives a morsel of food from the Master and goes to the darkness outside to complete his betrayal of Jesus. It is remarkable that his treasonous act takes place the same night when Jesus institutes the Eucharist. While Judas sells the body of Jesus to the Sanhedrin for mere money, Jesus gives His Body, Soul, and Divinity to the disciples gathered there and to every disciple that will ever live. After his death on Calvary, the same disciples go into hiding. Two of them find a mysterious man on the road to Emmaus during the day.

And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

Judas Iscariot went out at night, in darkness. Later he would understand that he had betrayed an innocent man. His understanding of Jesus occurs in darkness and has no apparent effect in him. The disciples in Emmaus have been with Jesus during the daylight hours, walking with him as the night approached. When they are about to have supper, they are allowed to recognize Jesus (their eyes were opened) “in the breaking of the bread” in what is the most clear revelation of the importance of the Eucharistic Sign. Jesus is there and they don’t see Him but when they understand who He is, He disappears. The blessed bread remains. The Church will gradually recognize in that bread the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ as the eyes of the faithful are opened to contemplate this new reality.

The Emmaus event happens in the first Glory Sunday in history, at the beginning of the age of  the Eucharist. The battle between good and evil manifests itself in the Last Supper —with Judas Iscariot in communion with the enemies of Christ, and the Eleven in communion with Christ— Darkness and light will continue the battle until the end of the world. One day, the enemy of mankind will try to snuff the Eucharist out of this world. In Emmaus, Jesus disappeared and the Blessed Bread remained. At the end of times, if the enemy manages to imperil the Eucharist, Our Lord will appear again to set things straight.

There is always a road: to Egypt, out of Egypt, from Jericho to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Emmaus, from that first Sunday to the end of time. Jesus always walks by our side, explaining what we need to know, opening our eyes to the meaning of the sacred things. Even in the darkest hours, He is the Word, the Light. The road we walk is always the way to everlasting life if He is near.

Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

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