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Sunday 23 April 2023 Third Sunday of Easter

07 February 2023

Their eyes were opened

Acts 2:14a, 22-41; Psalm 15; 1 Peter 1: 17-23, Luke 24: 13-35

By Duncan Macpherson

Features Editor, Roman Catholic Deacon in the Westminster Diocese, and retired Principal Lecturer in Theology, St Mary’s University, Twickenham


Context: a mid-morning Sunday Mass in a mainly middle-class parish in a leafy London suburb. The congregation includes young families from a diversity of cultural backgrounds as well as older individuals many of whom have experienced bereavement

Aim: to underline the way in which faith in the Risen Christ transforms our sadness into Easter joy


You are in a carriage on a train. You don’t stare but you can’t help noticing the faces of the other passengers. Many of them look sad. So why are they sad?

There are many reasons why their faces might be sad. The news is often depressing — full of wars and violence and natural disasters. Or our travellers may just be sad because they have no reason to be happy — life is humdrum, just another day at work doing a boring job! Or maybe they have problems with relationships, anxieties about their health, unfulfilled ambitions, trying to deal with the impact of economic crisis and the difficulty of making ends meet. Worse that any of these causes, some may be burdened by the death of someone they loved —someone who has died and left them feeling utterly empty.


In today’s Gospel a stranger asks two disciples why they are sad; ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast. The two disciples with downcast faces had suffered the loss of someone they loved — someone who should have made all the difference. Jesus had proved he was a great prophet by what he said and did ‘in the sight of God and of the whole people’. But then it all went wrong, and their hope was crucified. They told the stranger that they had heard the good news of Jesus risen from the dead. They had heard, but they were slow to believe.

And then the stranger turns on them; ‘You foolish men, so slow to believe the full message of the prophets!’ Everything that had happened: the betrayal by Judas, Peter’s denial, the screaming mob, shouting ‘crucify him’, the torture and the cruel agonising death had become part of God’s plan: ‘Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory? Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.’

Maybe it wasn’t just eastern hospitality that made them invite the stranger to stay for supper and a bed. He fascinated them and then — ‘while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them.’

And suddenly the good news dawned on them, ‘their eyes were opened, and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight.’ And they reflected on how his words had changed their understanding of what had happened, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’ Later they meet up with the others and the other disciples confirm the good news, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon. Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.’


Like the two disciples, you and I have experienced sadness and disappointment. Our faith should have made a big difference, but it didn’t quite. Like the two disciples we were slow to believe. We need to be challenged. And Jesus challenges us: ‘You foolish people! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets!’ All the things that have happened in our lives: our disappointments, our bereavements, our suffering — even our sins — have become part of God’s plan, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

If we come with longing to hear the word of God then our hearts will be warmed, and we will recognise him when he breaks the bread for us in the Eucharist. Through the prism of the broken bread of his Body we will see everything in a different light — the light of the risen Jesus. In the words from 1 Peter, ‘Through him you now have faith in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory for that very reason - so that you would have faith and hope in God.’

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