When we think of mass, we tend to immediately think of the Last Supper. Today's gospel however, is just as important for our understanding of why we do what we do. In some ways we are always the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
As the story begins the two disciples have walked away from the Church. It didn't turn out to be what they expected. They cannot understand. They are walking along wrestling with their faith.
Jesus joins them and the "liturgy" begins. Jesus pretends to know nothing and has them retell the story. Jesus then has to explain the meaning of the story. He reaches all the way back to Moses and helps them see the connections, as any good homilist does.
Is is the first half of Mass, the Liturgy of the Word. We tell the story in the readings and the priest, like Christ, helps us to understand and see the connection to the events of our lives.
But most important is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. St. Luke uses the four classic verbs for every celebration of the Eucharist: took, blessed, broke, and gave. Only in the Eucharist are their eyes opened to the presence of Jesus in their midst.
And notice how the story ends. They return to the Church, to the Apostles.
We are all the disciples on the road. We wander away through sin. We are sometimes disappointed in the Church that we see. Like those disciples we don't see Jesus doing what we think he should do in this world right now. Wandering seems to be just part of what we humans do.
It is worth noting however that at no point is a disciple in this story acting alone. Our culture worships individuality. This gospel reminds us that to be Christian is to be a part of the Church.
Every Sunday, the Lord's Day, we come home. We gather with our all too imperfect brothers and sisters and we relive the story of Emmaus.
The sad truth is that all to many of our brothers and sisters have wandered off down the road for a variety of reasons, some which are completely understandable. They need that encounter with Jesus just like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. And it is our duty to bring Jesus to them, to walk with them, to listen to them, to help them understand and to bring them back to the Table of the Lord.