Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful during his Regina Coeli prayer from his private apartment in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 6, 2008. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (VATICAN)
~from Asia News
The evangelical account of the "dejected" and "disappointed" disciples in Emmaus is a message for all Christians: through their encounter with the risen Jesus, they are able to return to a "robust faith" that "is nourished not with human ideas, but with the Word of God and the Eucharist". This is the commentary of Benedict XVI on the Gospel of this Sunday - the third Sunday of Easter - in which the story is told (cf. Lk. 24:13-35) "of two followers of Christ who, on the day following Saturday, meaning the third day after his death, sad and downcast left Jerusalem and headed toward a nearby village called Emmaus. Along the road, the risen Jesus came up beside them, but they did not recognise him. Sensing that they were dejected, he explained, on the basis of the Scriptures, that the Messiah had to suffer and die in order to enter his glory. He then entered a house together with them, sat at table, blessed the bread and broke it, and at that point they recognised him, but he disappeared, leaving them full of amazement before that broken bread, the new sign of his presence. And the two immediately returned to Jerusalem and told what had happened to the other disciples".
Archaeologists in the Holy Land have not yet precisely identified this location, and there are at least three hypotheses. For the pope, this has an evocative value: in reality, Emmaus is "every place, the road that leads there is the journey of each Christian, and moreover of each man. The risen Jesus accompanies us on our journey, on our road, to rekindle within our hearts the warmth of faith and hope, and to break the bread of eternal life".
The pontiff comments on the words used by one of the disciples ("We were hoping . . ."), the manifestation of a faith in disappointment and crisis: "This verb in the past tense says everything: we believed, we followed, we hoped . . . but now it's all over. Even Jesus of Nazareth, who had shown himself to be a prophet mighty in deed and word, even he failed, and we were left disappointed. Who has not experienced a moment like this in his life? Sometimes faith itself enters into crisis, because of negative experiences that make us feel abandoned and betrayed even by the Lord".
But the story of Emmaus suggests instead that it is possible to encounter the risen Jesus "still today". "Still today", the pope added, departing from his prepared remarks, "Jesus speaks to us in the Scripture; still today Jesus gives us his Body and his Blood". "The encounter with the Risen Christ", he continues, "gives us a more profound and authentic faith, one tempered, so to speak, in the fire of the paschal event, a faith that is robust because it is nourished not with human ideas, but with the Word of God and the Eucharist".
"This stupendous text of the Gospel", Benedict XVI concludes, "already contains the structure of the Holy Mass: in the first part, the listening to the Word of God through the sacred Scriptures; in the second the Eucharistic liturgy and communion with Christ, present in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. By nourishing ourselves at this twofold meal, the Church constantly builds itself up and renews itself day by day in faith, hope, and charity. Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, let us pray that every Christian and every community, reliving the experience of the disciples in Emmaus, may rediscover the grace of the transforming encounter with the risen Lord".
After the prayer of the Regina Caeli, the pope again remembered the organisers of the first World Congress of Divine Mercy, concluded today with a Mass in the basilica of St Peter's, presided over by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna. "To all the participants", the pope added, "I extend my cordial greeting, which now becomes an assignment: go and be witnesses of the mercy of God, the spring of hope for every man and for the entire world. Made the risen Lord be with you always!".