Most often, Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus is seen as a metaphor for the Eucharistic celebration. The Old Testament Scriptures are unpacked and broken open for the disciples. But they point to the Lord and to what he means for the notion of salvation.
Then we come to the table:
And it happened that,
while (Jesus) was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened
and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way
and opened the scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once
and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together the eleven
and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised
and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them
in the breaking of the bread.
My colleagues in RCIA also see this as a pattern for mystagogia, the post-experience reflection on the sacraments. And not just the so-called “magic moment,” but also the preparations in rituals, Word, and personal experiences. In an ideal church, people who have experienced the Lord don’t keep it to themselves, tucking it away privately. They share the experience with others, even those who share their faith.
In the context of people who are sick, or even dying, what does this mean? It might suggest that personal reflection on the sacrament of anointing and on Communion still urge a disciple to ponder the experience and share their faith with others. If we think sick people are excused from living a faith-filled life, including its expression, we may well be mistaken.
I can envision this reading, verses 13 through 35 in Luke 24 used not only during the Easter season, and not only when Communion or Viaticum is shared. It might be quite effective for a believer who needs encouragement to continue a disciple’s mission. My friend Sherry Weddell once wrote God has no grandchildren. We might also say that no matter how ill, old, or near death a person is, God has no retirees either.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.