Do We Recognise Jesus?

– Easter Wednesday-

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. … So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’ [Luke 24:28–32]

In many of the readings leading up to the Passion of Christ, we saw that the Pharisees could not recognise the Messiah. Jesus did not fit their idea of who the Messiah should be. In the end, they rejected him and worked for his crucifixion. In today’s gospel, we see a different situation emerge. This time it is not the Pharisees who fail to recognise Jesus; instead, it’s two of his disciples.

Yet, unlike the Pharisees, although they didn’t recognise Jesus, these disciples are happy for this stranger to walk with them, and they listen intently to what he has to say. Their predisposition to this stranger is open, welcoming, and attentive. It reveals that even though these disciples had walked with Jesus, they didn’t assume to know everything. They’re not telling this stranger what to think. Instead, they are open to learning more. 

They don’t simply listen to this stranger; they even invite him to stay with them and to share a meal with them. Had they not made the invitation, they may never have come to see who it was who was in their presence. It was at the table that they “recognised him at the breaking of the bread.”

The risen Christ can appear to us in ways we don’t expect and don’t recognise. Jesus himself explains that he is present in those who are poor, sick, in prison, hungry, and so on (Matthew 25:31–46). As such, we are challenged to be attentive to the presence of the risen Christ in everyone we meet. The disciples, upon reflection, recognised that there had been something divine about their encounter with the stranger. They state, ‘did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’ Though they hadn’t yet recognised Jesus, their hearts were aflame as they accompanied that stranger. To be attentive to the presence of Christ in others begins with being attentive to our own hearts as we encounter others. When Jesus is present, our hearts burn within us like those of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The light of the world is penetrating our hearts.

Holy Spirit, enable us always to be attentive to the presence of Christ in the stranger. May our hearts always burn in the presence of the Lord.

by Peter Pellicaan

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