It is the “first day of the week,” and the first day of our Lord’s resurrected life (Lk. 24). Two of his disciples are walking on the road, “reason[ing] with themselves,” “and are sad” in their reasoning.
It is fitting that Christ appears to them in earnest discourse, for Christ himself is the Logos (Reason) that enlightens every man (Jn. 1:1-9)—when man is enlightened. It is also fitting that their eyes are held from knowing Christ, for in their reasoning they pay insufficient attention to the lessons divine Reason had previously taught them.
Before rebuking their folly, and expounding the scriptures which ought to have prevented it, Jesus asks them to explain themselves.
From their own words, we can discern the source of their confusion. Though “certain women of [their] company” have reported to them that the Lord’s tomb is empty, and that angels have proclaimed their Savior to be alive, the disciples remain “affrighted.”
The reason for their fright is not hard to understand. They had hoped that Christ “should have redeemed Israel” from Roman oppression. That he allowed Pontius Pilate to have him nailed to a cross instead seems like a capitulation to the worldly powers of which these disciples remain in awe.
Reports of Christ’s resurrection are insufficient to reassure them, unless perhaps accompanied by news of an army that is to restore the earthly empire whose protection they crave.
In opening the scriptures to them, Christ speaks of the necessity of suffering. In context he refers primarily to his own suffering, but elsewhere he explains that the saved will have to suffer in union with their Savior (Jn. 15:20).
In effect, Christ sums up the scriptures by reminding them that the Kingdom of heaven is not of this world; and that it is in patience that we possess our souls in joyful hope of what is to come.
The disciples’ eyes are fully opened when Christ gives himself to them in the form of bread. Even as he spoke to them along the road, however, their hearts were already burning within them.
Anyone who reasons soundly about the state of the world today has ample reason to fear. It is tempting to place our trust in earthly movements and leaders, and to despair when, inevitably, they let us down.
In truth, only the Word of God, given to us in scripture and in Sacrament, can protect us from the enemies we now face. In his death and resurrection, the Lord does not offer to eliminate our earthly oppressors. But he does offer us the courage and strength to rise above them, as he did.
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