Spirituality of the Readings
The Rest of the Story
Folks of a certain age will remember the Paul Harvey radio show called “The Rest of the Story.” Harvey always reserved until the last thing in his show a surprise ending to the story he had been reporting that week.
Well, Sunday’s Gospel contains the surprise ending to a tale we all know well, the Emmaus story. As you remember, two disciples, walking in sorrow to that small town, had been joined by a stranger who began explaining to them the story of Christ as foretold in the Jewish scriptures. When the three arrived at Emmaus they ate, and the men had known in a flash who this was—at the moment he broke the bread. They had run to Jerusalem as fast as they could, to tell the remaining apostles.
Then, this week’s Gospel contains “The Rest of the Story.” The two men were very excited, (though the account in Luke just says that they “recounted” what had happened). In the midst of their enthusiasm, suddenly, without warning, Jesus stood there in their midst. “They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
Jesus replies, ghosts do not have flesh and bones, now, do they? Touch me and know I am real. He shows them his hands and feet, with the wounds of the cross now gilded by God’s love. He says he is hungry; how much more un-ghostly could you get? He helps himself to the baked fish they bring him, just as he had done so often in their life together.
He begins to explain the events that had seemed like pure disaster to them: his passion and death. He opens for them everything written about him “in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms.” He explains why the Son of Man had needed to suffer, die, and be raised.
Surely he referenced the Book of Job to begin with: Job, who had been a loving and moral man, but had lost absolutely everything. This had led to a direct encounter with God. Maybe this story serves as a prefiguring of Jesus’ passion events.
And of course, the Book of Isaiah must have been part of it:
It was our pain that he bore,
our sufferings he endured.
We thought of him as stricken,
struck down by God and afflicted,
But he was pierced for our sins,
crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole,
by his wounds we were healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
This is the heart and soul of the Hebrew scriptures. Our Christian and Catholic belief holds that its fulfillment came in Jesus.
Including a hint at the resurrection:
Because of his anguish he shall see the light;
because of his knowledge he shall be content;
My servant, the just one, shall justify the many,
their iniquity he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the many,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty. (Isaiah 53:11-12)
And so the apostles are converted by “everything written about [Jesus] in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms.” Peter will go off preaching about what God “had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer” (First Reading) and die and would be glorified.
In other words, Peter and the others at last had learned the “rest of the story.”
And on Easter, so have we!
John Foley, SJ
**From Saint Louis University