The Road to Emmaus and Scripture Study

The Gospel in the Wednesday within the Octave of Easter came from Luke 24:13-25 – The Road to Emmaus. This is by far one of my favorite scripture passages in all the Gospels (Luke 15:11-32 – The Prodigal Son is a favorite too). Let’s be honest – the entire Gospel of St. Luke is my favorite with the Gospels of St. John and St. Matthew a very close second and third.  Ever since I have been teaching Introduction to Revelation (Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition) to high school students in the theology classroom, I have begun all my classes at the beginning of the year with the reading of the Road to Emmaus. The core of theology is the Holy Scriptures and I make this known to my students from the very beginning. We must remember that the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation – Dei Verbum says in paragraph 24 – “Sacred Scripture is the soul of theology.”

As you begin to study the Scriptures for the first time or continue in your studies of the Scriptures, this scripture passage brings alive the passion and love for the Scriptures like no other passage in the Canon (the books of the Bible). I think this is the case because we read about how Our Lord explained the Scriptures to two of his disciples on the very day of his Resurrection. In verses 25-27, Jesus speaks of the prophets. Although he does not say specifically what prophets, we should understand that all the prophets in some way spoke of the coming of the Messiah, but the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel together speak specifically of a suffering servant that would be bring a new and everlasting covenant; the Davidic kingdom would be re-established (see and read Isaiah 53, 55:1-5; Jeremiah 31:31-34 [only place in the Old Testament we read the words – new covenant]; and Ezekiel 37:24-28). Not only did Jesus explain the prophets but  “beginning with Moses”, he explained to them the Law (Torah) since Jesus would fulfill the Old Mosaic Law with the New Law of Love. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus says, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17).

In Luke 15:32, the disciples ask each other a very important question after Jesus vanishes from their sight – “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” I have always imagined the disciples sitting there in awe and grabbing at the area of the chest where the heart dwells because it’s what I do when I explain this scripture passage to my students. “Did not our hearts burn” – what a question! The burning comes only from hearing the Scriptures from the Word Incarnate and with the power of the Holy Spirit leading the way as the Holy Spirit would do in the centuries to follow.

When we read the Holy Scriptures, we must allow the Word Incarnate to penetrate our hearts and be open to the Word of God burning within us. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to understand the Scriptures with reason and a process of thought. We don’t leave our brains at the door when studying the Scriptures.  Not only should we use the scriptures for prayer as we do in the Liturgy (the Holy Bible was primarily compiled by the Early Christian Church for use in the Liturgy), but we should study the Scriptures and come to know Jesus through them.

As Catholics, we cannot be afraid to study the Holy Bible. It was our Church – the Catholic Church that canonized the books of the Bible. We are the Scripture Church! Memorize the words of St. Jerome and you will never feel the same way about Jesus and the Scriptures again.  He said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” If you don’t know the Scriptures, then you don’t know Jesus.

Pope Benedict XVI says in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, “…Jesus on the road to Emmaus represents, in some sense, the model of a catechesis centered on “the explanation of the Scriptures,” an explanation which Christ alone can give (cf. Lk 24:27-28), as he shows that they are fulfilled in his person…Catechetical work always entails approaching Scripture in faith and in the Church’s Tradition…Catechesis should communicate in a lively way the history of salvation and the content of the Church’s faith…”

I encourage you to study and pray the scriptures – let the scriptures penetrate your heart and burn inside of you.

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