Sunday’s Gospel is “the rest of the story” about Emmaus. Maybe you remember the Paul Harvey radio show by that name. He always reserved the surprise ending of the story until the end of the show.
Well, here is the story that has the surprise ending in today’s Gospel. We have all heard this tale. Several disciples, walking in sorrow to a small town, were joined by a stranger who began explaining to them the story of Christ as foretold in the Jewish scriptures. When the three of them arrived, they ate, and the men knew in a flash who it was at the moment when he broke the bread.
Now the rest of the story. The men ran to Jerusalem as fast as they could to tell the eleven apostles. Probably they were babbling and prattling, being so excited, but in the midst of the enthusiasm, suddenly, without warning, Jesus appeared. “They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
Jesus said ghosts do not have flesh and bones, now, do they? Touch me and know I am real. He showed them his hands and feet, with the wounds of the cross now gilded by God’s love.
Here is the best move he makes, a compassionate one. He says he is hungry. How much more un-ghostly could you get? He helps himself to the baked fish they bring him, just as he had done so often in their life together.
He begins to explain the events that had seemed like pure disaster to them: the passion and death. He told them everything written about him “in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms.” He explained why the Son of Man had needed to suffer, die, and be raised.
Wouldn’t you love to have been there to hear what he said?
Surely he referenced the Book of Job for a beginning answer. Job had been a loving and moral man, but lost absolutely everything, which led to a direct encounter with God. Maybe this is a prefiguring of Jesus.
And of course, the Book of Isaiah must have been part of it:
It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed (Isaiah 53:4-5).
This is the heart and soul of the Hebrew scriptures, and, according to our Christian and Catholic belief, the fulfillment that came in Jesus.
Here is Isaiah again, concerning the resurrection:
Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty (Isaiah 53:11-12).
These words had been written centuries before Jesus. But they tell us he truth about him. .
And so the apostles are converted. Peter goes off to preach about what God “had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer” (First Reading) and die and would be glorified.
Peter had learned the “rest of the story.” And since Easter, we have too.
Fr. John Foley, S. J.