· Vatican City ·

Third Sunday of Easter: 14 April

A Divine Encounter

 A Divine Encounter  ING-015
12 April 2024

This week the Gospel of Luke tells us about the profound encounter between Jesus and His disciples on the road to Emmaus. In the wake of Christ’s death and empty tomb we witness the disciples struggling with confusion, disbelief, and despair only to be transformed by the risen Christ standing in their midst. This transformation finds its fullness when Jesus reveals Himself to them through the breaking of bread. I recently had the opportunity to reread Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and couldn’t help but reflect upon the striking parallels between this Gospel passage and the journey of the soul towards divine revelation and communion with God found in the Divine Comedy.

The Divine Comedy is an incredible work of literature that explores Dante’s journey through hell, purgatory, and heaven guided by the poet Virgil and ultimately his beloved Beatrice. Much like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Dante embarks on a journey in which he grapples with questions of sin and redemption eventually finding solace and salvation in his union with God. “At this point power failed high fantasy but, like a wheel in perfect balance turning, I felt my will and my desire impelled by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars” (Paradiso, Canto xxxiii , Lines 142-145).

In Luke’s Gospel, the disciples on the road to Emmaus are initially blinded by their grief and confusion in the wake of Jesus’ death. They fail to recognize Him even as he walks alongside them engaging them in conversation. It is only in the Eucharistic meal that their hearts and eyes are opened. As they rush to share this remarkable experience with the other disciples Jesus suddenly appears to them, greeting them with the words, “Peace be with you” (Lk 24:36) and they are invited to touch His hands and feet. The physicality of Jesus’s resurrected body underscores the reality of God’s promise made flesh.

In both this Gospel passage and Dante’s journey we witness that encountering the divine leads to a profound transformation of the soul. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus opens the minds of the disciples to understand Scripture, revealing to them the fulfillment of God’s salvific plan (Lk 24:45). Similarly, Dante experiences a spiritual awakening that transcends earthly boundaries and offers a beautiful glimpse of the divine glory and boundless mercy that awaits the faithful in paradise. “In His will is our peace — it is the sea in which all things are drawn that it itself creates or which the work of Nature makes” (Paradiso, Canto iii , Lines 85-87).

The parallels between Luke’s Gospel and Dante’s journey highlight the universal themes of suffering, redemption, and the search for truth. Both speak to the human experience of encountering God in the trials and tribulations of life and the solace and salvation that are found in His love and mercy, and both illustrate that we are called to open our hearts to the presence of God in our lives, trusting that His guidance and grace will lead us to the fullness of truth and life everlasting.

*  Executive Director
Maryland Catholic Conference

By Jenny Kraska *