The road to Emmaus “is the path of renewal and maturation in faith for all Christians,” Pope Benedict told the many thousands of pilgrims that packed St Peter's Square for the Regina Caeli Prayer today at noon.
The Gospel of this Sunday - the third Easter - is the famous story told of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24,13-35). It tells of two followers of Christ who, sad and disheartened, left Jerusalem the day after the Sabbath, the third since his death, to go to a nearby village called Emmaus.
Along the road, the risen Jesus came up beside them, but they did not recognize him. Sensing their dejection, he explained on the basis of the Scriptures that the Messiah had to suffer and die to achieve glory. Then he entered a house with them, sat down at table, blessed the bread and broke it, and then they recognized him. But he vanished from their sight, leaving them full of wonder before the broken bread, a new sign of his presence.
The two immediately returned to Jerusalem and told the other disciples what happened.
The fact that archaeologists have not identified the location of Emmaus with any certainty, Benedict said, holds for him a certain value: it "suggests that Emmaus is really everywhere, the road that leads there is the path of every Christian, indeed, every human being."
On our own journeys, the risen Jesus is a traveling companion who "rekindles in our hearts the warmth of faith and hope and the breaking of the bread of eternal life."
Pope Benedict commented that the disciples' encounter with Christ on the Road to Emmaus manifests a crisis of faith. The use of the past tense by one of the unknown disciples says it all: "We hoped, we believed, we followed…but now everything, 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 in life a moment like this?" he said. “Sometimes our faith enters into a crisis, which, because of negative experiences, makes us feel abandoned and betrayed by the Lord. But the story of Emmaus suggests instead that it is possible to encounter the risen Jesus "still today". Departing from his prepared text, the Holy Father repeated,
"Still today, Jesus speaks to us in the Scripture; still today Jesus gives us his Body and his Blood".
“The road to Emmaus becomes the way of a purification and maturation of our belief in God: the encounter with the risen Christ gives us a deeper faith, one that is authentic, tempered, so to speak, through the fire of Easter, a faith robust because it is from the word of God and the Eucharist, not human ideas.”
Concluding his reflection on the Gospel, Pope Benedict said, "This beautiful evangelical text already contains the structure of the Mass: in the first part listening to the Word through the Scriptures; second in the Eucharistic liturgy and communion with Christ present in the sacrament of his Body and his Blood. Nourishing ourselves in this twofold meal, the Church builds itself up and is renewed every day in faith, hope and charity.”
“Through the intercession of Mary, we pray that each and every Christian community, reliving the experience of the disciples of Emmaus, rediscover the transforming grace of the risen Lord.”
After the Regina Caeli prayer, Pope Benedict greeted some 10,000 participants of the First World Congress for Divine Mercy which concluded today with Mass in St. Peter's Basilica presided over by Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. "To all the participants", the Pope said, "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!"