A Faith That Does Justice engages The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola[1] (Exercises) to discern God’s will and live faith in action on behalf of all God’s people. When appropriately adapted they offer a way for all people of good will to do the same.

The Fourth Week invites us to share the disciples’ experience of Jesus’ resurrection.[2] Here we present Jesus’ Appearance to Two of His Disciples on their Way to Emmaus[3] in the second ending of Mark’s gospel (16:9-19) and supplement it with Luke’s description of this same story.[4]

Mark’s second ending describes it his way.

After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. (Mk 16:12-13)

Only the bare essentials are offered. Two disciples encounter the risen Jesus outside of Jerusalem; they return to tell the other disciples of their experience; and they are not believed.

Luke’s gospel presents a more developed account of these same events.

Now on that same day (the first day of the week) two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were walking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And when he said to them, “What are you discussing with each another while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So, he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Lk 24:13-35)

Using pre-gospel material, Luke creates a dramatic story of Jesus’ appearance to two of his disciples on their way to Emmaus, a village some seven miles from Jerusalem. The scene unfolds in four stages. First, the two disciples, disillusioned in the aftermath of Jesus’ death three days earlier, set out to return to their homes in Emmaus. They had placed their hope in Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited messiah, and that hope was dashed by the events of his crucifixion and death. As they walk along the way discussing what had happened, the risen Jesus joins them, but they do not recognize him.

Second, Jesus engages these two men in conversation. When he inquires as to what they had been discussing, one of them, Cleopas, is incredulous. He informs the still unrecognized fellow traveler about how a few days earlier Jesus, a man they considered to be a prophet, had been put to death in Jerusalem. Then almost as an afterthought, the two disciples mention a report by some women who claimed they had been told by angels Jesus was alive, even though no one else had seen him. It is then that Jesus opens the scriptures to them beginning with Moses and explains that the messiah would suffer before he entered in his glory.

Third, in a gesture of hospitality the two disciples invite their fellow traveler to stay with them in Emmaus that night rather than proceed onward as the day was ending. It was well known the roads leading to and from Jerusalem were quite dangerous after darkness had set in due to the presence of robbers. Jesus accepted their offer and then, while sharing a meal together, took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were finally opened! Jesus had shared many meals during his public ministry, and it was in this same way they now recognized him. The risen Jesus then vanished from their sight as they recalled that their hearts were burning with fire as he explained the Scriptures to them along the way.

Fourth, the disciples returned to Jerusalem to share with Jesus’ other disciples what had happened, even though it was now evening. Ironically, these men had likely fled Jerusalem out of fear for their own lives. Now they return willing to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection to others. Upon their arrival, the Eleven and the other disciples inform them, “the Lord has been raised and he has appeared to Simon” (24:34) Only then do the two disciples of Emmaus explain what had happened “on the road” and how Jesus became known to them in the breaking of the bread.[5]

Several Lucan themes are at play in this scene. Jerusalem, the theological center of Luke’s gospel, is the focus of this story. The two disciples left it in a desolate state before returning overwhelmed by joy to proclaim the risen Jesus. However, even more important are the christological manifestations of Jesus as the Messiah and fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures, and the scene’s eucharistic overtones (Lk 9: 16; 22:15-20). Sharing meals would become the practice of the early Christian community as a means to express their belief that even though Jesus was no longer physically present to them, he remained present in Spirit every time they broke bread in his name.[6]

As we contemplate the appearance of the risen Jesus, we might imagine ourselves as walking alongside these two disciples. Like them, let us recognize our own need of a deepening sense of faith in the risen Jesus as we pray for the grace of the Fourth Week: to experience the joy and the glory of the risen Christ.[7] May that grace lead us to realize ever-more deeply there is no resurrection without the cross, and there is no victorious Christ of faith without the suffering Jesus of history.


[1] The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola are a series of Christian contemplations and meditations written by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th‑century Spanish priest and founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Divided into four thematic “weeks” of variable length, they are designed to be carried out over a period of approximately 30 days. They were composed to help participants in religious retreats to discern the will of God and commit to following Jesus in this world whatever the cost. When appropriately adapted, they can also help people of other faith traditions discern God’s will and engage problems facing society in the 21st century.

[2] R.E. Brown, “The Gospel of John: XIII-XXI,” in: W.F. Albright and D.N. Freedman (eds.) The Anchor Bible, Vol. 29A, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1970), 966. The resurrection is an eschatological experience that can never be adequately expressed in words. Nevertheless, Christians have attempted to explain it in several ways, including: 1) referring to the risen Jesus as the high priest who entered the heavenly holy of holies with his own blood that was shed in sacrifice. This view offers a direct progression from crucifixion to ascension without an intervening act of resurrection (Heb 4:14; 6:19-20; 9:1-28); and 2) referring to the risen Jesus through, (a) short formulae that are believed to provide the earliest information about the resurrection experience (1 Cor 15:3-8), and (b) appearance stories in the gospels and Acts of the Apostles.

[3] L.J. Puhl, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1951), Section 303.

[4] M.E. Boring, Mark: A Commentary, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 451-53. The vast majority of scholars holds that the original ending to Mark’s gospel occurred at 16:8. Boring claims scribes who copied Mark’s gospel for dissemination to the churches, and the evangelists Matthew and Luke (and perhaps John), believed the original ending was inadequate. For this reason, 16:9-19 was added, making it more compatible with the resurrection stories of the other gospels. See also, F.J. Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), 355.

[5] J.A. Fitzmyer, “The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV,” in: W.F. Albright and D.N. Freedman (eds.) Anchor Bible, Vol. 28 A, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1986), 1554, 1559-60. In the breaking of the bread, the basic kerygma (1 Cor 15: 3-5) is placed into the narrative, as Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and appearances are recognized as the fulfillment of the Hebrew scriptures.

[6] Fitzmyer, “The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV,” 1557-58. See also, R.E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, (New York, NY: Doubleday, Anchor Bible Reference Library, 1997), 261.

[7] Puhl, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Section 221.