Fr Denis Hooper OSB
For the Classical Studies buffs out there, the Roman Empire at the time of Christ was at its peak. By then they had built over 300,000 kilometres of roads. 75,000 kilometres of those roads were paved. Many of the ancient Roman roads can be seen today and some are still even in use. In ancient times – just like in modern times – roads were hugely important. Roads connected people, they connected cities, they connected civilizations. Goods were transported on roads. Armies travelled in roads. Travelling on these roads was very dangerous for most people. You could be robbed or even killed. Only the wealthy and powerful could afford the cost of having armed protection against this danger. The Glenstal Senior rugby team if they were around in those days would have been enough to scare away most robbers. In those days, anyone with a brain in their head travelled in a group – which was about as much protection as most people could hope for against the baddies.
It was on one of these paved Roman roads – the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus – that in today’s gospel Jesus appeared to two of his disciples. Unfortunately, this road no longer survives. It was about ten kilometres from Jerusalem to Emmaus – the same distance from here to Annacotty. It is probable that the two thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus had stolen from people travelling on one of these roads. Perhaps even this same road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The Romans had no mercy on robbers and crucifixion was seen as an appropriate deterrent to robbers. Crucifixion was always carried on public roads – to make sure that as many people as possible could witness them.
The Gospel we have just listened to – St. Luke’s account of the two disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus – is probably my favourite story in the entire bible. It is perfectly written. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It starts with sadness and despondency and ends with joy and elation. It is such a perfect account that there is no point in my trying to explain it. The story speaks for itself. Fr. John tells me that at the very centre of the narrative are the words: “he is alive”. There is the story up to those words; and the story after those words: “He is alive”.
The two disciples on the Road from Jerusalem to Emmaus met the risen Christ. I’d like you to listen to a report that circulated widely on Social media a number years ago. It was later proven to be what we now call “fake news”. But just take a listen to the report:
“On the eve of the annual celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, many Christians were shocked by the announcement that a body identified as that of Jesus was found in a long-neglected tomb just outside the boundary of Jerusalem. Rumours had already been circulating that a very important discovery was about to be announced. The initial reaction of Christians around the world was that of astonishment, bewilderment and defensive disbelief. We will have to wait and see just what effect this discovery will have on the 2,000 year-old religion. Evidently, the 2,000 year-old lie has come to an end.”
As I told you, this article was many times over proven as “fake news”.
Because if this article was true – then our faith would be worthless and all this celebration of the resurrection at Easter would be absolutely absurd. It is interesting that this same “fake news story” is something which is not new. In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told that when the soldiers who were ordered to guard the tomb discovered that Jesus’ body was gone they – the Jewish authorities paid them in gold to spread the “fake news” that some of the disciples of Jesus’ had stolen his body.
In the Acts of the Apostles – which we have also read today – we hear Peter say: “God raised Jesus – and we are all witnesses to this”. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were not the first to meet with the
risen Jesus. They were not the last. Each day we meet Jesus in our own
in each other
in the Eucharist
In the liturgy
and in so much more that is good, loving and beautiful in our world
Christianity is an empty religion if the story of Jesus ends with his death. The Resurrection of Jesus is what gives meaning to what we believe in. It also gives us hope that someday we too, will be like Jesus – raised from the dead into eternal life.