(Luke 24:13-35) Brad Pitt and I have something in common. We both struggle to recognize people. It’s not personal. I once walked right past my Dad at the airport when he turned up wearing a toupee! They have a fancy name for this condition – it’s called ‘prosopagnosia’, or face blindness. What it means is that, somehow, I never seem to “see” people the way others do. I recognize them by making other kinds of associations – by their hair colour or their voice, or because I see them in expected places. I was relieved when I found out there’s an explanation for my difficulty, but I always worry that if I don’t recognize someone, they’ll think I’m being unfriendly.
Two of Jesus’ disciples had a similar problem in today’s Gospel. When He appeared to them on the road to Emmaus, they didn’t recognize Him either. They didn’t expect to see Him there because they thought He was dead. They had heard that His Body was missing – that angels had appeared in a vision to some of the women, saying that He was alive. But they didn’t believe it. Even though they had been Jesus’ followers, His intimate associates, something prevented them from knowing who He was that day.
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” they asked. Even though their hearts “burned within them” as Jesus explained the Scriptures, their eyes remained closed. Yet there was something about Him – His words touched a chord deep within them. They were so moved that they asked Him to stay with them that night. And at supper – in the Eucharist – when Jesus took the bread, and blessed and broke it, they finally recognized who He really was.
We, too, do not always recognize the Lord. We don’t always realize that He’s right there – walking beside us, encouraging us and giving us hope as we travel life’s journey. But when we read the Scriptures, we prepare our hearts to recognize Him. And as we meditate on His teachings, we begin to get a picture of what the real Jesus looks like – not His physical features, but His unchanging and eternal spiritual presence. As our hunger is awakened and we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Bread and Wine at the Eucharistic table, the face of Jesus is revealed and made present to us. We recognize Him and we rejoice, for we know that Jesus has truly risen – that He is here with us today, both physically and spiritually. And as we go out into the world we know that we do not walk alone. He is always with us.
– Sharon van der Sloot