These two disciples are disappointed and dejected. They had high hopes for Jesus. They hoped he might be the one to set their people free from Roman rule. But their hopes were dashed when Jesus was crucified. Now they are walking the dusty road away from Jerusalem, leaving behind all their hopes and all their faith in him. Are they even his disciples any more?
When Jesus joins the two, they don’t recognise him. Jesus does what he so often does; he starts a conversation. He listens to their story. They have heard the news of the empty tomb, but in their dejection, they can’t imagine that Jesus could have risen from the dead. And so, patiently, Jesus explains it all to them; that Moses and the prophets, the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures, were preparing the way for the coming of the Christ.
The encounter prompts a generous response from the two disciples: they invite Jesus to stay and eat with them. And their hospitality is rewarded; when he breaks the bread, they recognise him, and they are transformed. Disappointment is replaced by faith; confusion by understanding. They set out at once, back to Jerusalem; back along the road that they have just walked, but now filled with joy, and ready to witness to their encounter with the risen Lord.
In normal times, our shared celebration of Mass is the heart of our Christian life. We listen to the Scriptures, we come to the table together and we receive the Bread of Life that the Lord breaks for us. Our sharing in the Eucharist transforms us, nourishes our faith, and prompts us to go out and pass on the Good News that we have heard. At present, we are unable to gather as a community to celebrate Mass. But we can still encounter the risen Christ in prayer – in our homes, on our daily walk. We can still hear the Word of God and be transformed by it, and we can still witness. Our hearts can still burn within us.