One of the stories in this post-Easter week has been the story of the travelers to Emmaus who meet Christ along the way. According to Luke, this happens on Easter evening as Cleopas and an unnamed companion are caught up from behind by a stranger who joins them as they walk. A few points are interesting to notice: the “walkers” are walking away from Jerusalem; they are very distraught, so much so, that they do not have any idea of who it is who has joined them. Eventually, they learn it is Jesus.
The Emmaus story is very popular for its intrigue: A mysterious guest joining two people walking in the evening, the “concealed” identity of the stranger, the sad expression of grief by the two companions, the sudden realization during the meal of who he was, and the final disappearance of the stranger, their Master, Jesus Christ. Debates and discussions of this story have challenged theologians for centuries, especially centering on the words Luke used to tell the story, more so than the theatrical intrigue, denouement, and abrupt ending.
Father Jim Martin, SJ, has written in his book, Jesus, that the saddest words in the Christian Scriptures are, “we had hoped.” “We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel,” is the way the companions started their conversation with their fellow traveler. “A confession of total rejection,” says Father Martin. How often have you and I traveled with Jesus and said those words feeling similar rejection? Father Martin points out, we had hoped our child would get better; we had hoped I would keep my job; we had hoped I could overcome this problem, solve this dilemma, get well. So on and so on.
When the companions offer their guest an invitation, “Stay with us for it is getting late,” Jesus responds to the hospitality. He ends his discourse with them and blesses the bread and wine to reveal his identity, to open their eyes, to lift the veil of unbelief, to inspire them in this new mission. He vanishes, leaving them with the consecrated bread and wine. It is now up to them. They run back to Jerusalem, the center of the new faith, and into the assembly of the Eleven, renewed and enthusiastic in the mission.
You and I have experienced similar events in our lives when we thought we were not up to the mission. We doubted our competencies, even our belief, the faith we once treasured. Or, we doubted God’s power within us. Maybe we doubted God’s existence. We looked for proof of care when all the while he was walking with us. Sometimes we gave up on the Church, our personal Jerusalem, when we were justifiably angry or thought we knew better and were misunderstood. I suggest a reflective reading of this magnificent story in Luke, 24:13-35. And, I also suggest you reflect on Caravaggio’s wonderful painting, “Supper at Emmaus”. One of the companions in the painting wears a sea shell on his cloak, the symbol of a pilgrim. Could that be you?
Can you think of any time in your life when you experienced an Emmaus moment? What was it like?
Are you aware of the reality of Christ’s presence within you and how that effects others?
Share with all our Anonymous Angels how you were led to realize, your heart was burning when you heard him speaking to you?