The Rest of the Story
Third Sunday of Easter (Easter3B), April 26, 2009
By Fr. John Foley, S. J.
Paul Harvey, the long-time radio commentator, used to have a program called “The Rest of the Story.” Sunday’s Gospel is “the rest of the story” about Emmaus. You know the story itelf. Several disciples, walking in sorrow to a small town, were joined by a stranger who began explaining to them the story of Christ as foretold in the Jewish scriptures. When the three of them arrived, they ate, and the men knew in a flash who it was at the moment when he broke the bread.
Now the rest of the story. These men ran to Jerusalem as fast as they could to tell the eleven apostles. Probably they were babbling and prattling, being so excited, but in the midst of the excitment, suddenly, without warning, Jesus appeared. “They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
Jesus was kind to them. He said ghosts do not have flesh and bones, now, do they? Touch me and know I am real. Then he showed them his hands and feet, with the wounds of the cross now overlaid by God’s healing love.
Here is the best move he makes, compassionately. He says he is hungry. How much more un-ghostly could you get? He helped himself to the baked fish they brought him, just as he had done so often in their life together. They are comforted.
He begins to explain the events that had seemed like pure disaster to them. The passion and death. He told them everything written about him “in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms,” just as he had told the Emmaus folks. He explained why the Son of Man had needed to suffer, die, and be raised.
Wouldn’t you love to have been there, to find out why?
Surely he referenced the Book of Job for a beginning answer. Job, a loving and moral man, loses absolutely everything, which leads to a direct encounter with God. Maybe this is a prefiguring of Jesus.
And of course, the Book of Isaiah must have been part of it:
It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed (Isaiah 53:4-5).
This is the heart and soul of what the Old Testament scriptures had been leading up to and that Jesus fulfilled, according to our Christian and Catholic belief.
And the resurrection? Here is Isaiah again:
Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty (Isaiah 53:11-12).
These had been written centuries before Jesus. Don’t they help us too to understand?
By this time the apostles had come to their senses. In the First Reading, which of course comes after the Gospel in history, Peter preaches about what God “had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer” and die and would be glorified. Peter knew the “rest of the story.”
Let us live it