Today, we find ourselves on the road to Emmaus — a familiar story in the Gospel writers’ collection of “now you see him, now you don’t,” post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus.
The risen Christ continues to startle his disciples by turning up at the most inopportune moments. In today’s familiar Gospel, Jesus, in the guise of a stranger, catches two of his followers in the act of leaving (= running away from) Jerusalem. Make no mistake: these two are not out for a stroll on a lovely Spring day. The violent capture and killing of their beloved teacher and guide has turned their whole world upside down and shaken them to the core. They are confused, angry, sad, dejected, grieving. You and I have been in this place more than once in our lifetimes, haven’t we?
“Downcast,” the disciples are “conversing and debating” about it all — Luke’s polite terms for wailing, complaining, giving voice to their hurt and fear, trying to make sense of something that defies reason. Their hopes have been crushed. Was their following of Jesus a mistake? Was his promise an illusion? What will become of them? You and I have been in this place more than once in our lifetimes, haven’t we?
The stranger (a.k.a. Jesus) meets them where they are, on a road that seems like a dead end. A fellow traveler, he listens intently, then speaks to their heavy hearts with an unforgettable lesson in the Scriptures. He challenges the battered disciples to remember how God had been at work in their story since the dawn of creation, and was working still, even in events that seemed like tragedies. His eyes, his smile, must have softened his strong words — “How foolish you are!” The two travelers plead “Stay with us” —don’t go, keep talking, tell us more, stir into flame the ashes of our hope.
What wouldn’t you and I give to have heard his words? To have broken bread with him that evening? To have felt our hearts leap with new fire, new hope?
But we have, haven’t we?
Count the ways, the words, the places, the faces. Count the times when dead ends turned into open roads. Count the times when broken hearts healed. Count the times when life-changing earthquakes broke open a world of new possibilities. Count the times when you and I have come to know him in the breaking of the bread.
And then give thanks for the abundant gifts that the risen Christ continues to shower on us along the path of life (Ps. 16) which is our own road to Emmaus.
–Regina Bechtle, SC
Pray with Pope Francis’ words
“Jesus is always walking beside us, even in the darkest moments, and he will reveal his presence.”
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“The heartbeat of the Risen Lord is granted us as a gift, a present, a new horizon. The beating heart of the Risen Lord is given to us, and we are asked to give it in turn as a transforming force, as the leaven of a new humanity.” (Easter Vigil homily, 2017)
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Sr. Regina, a retreat leader, speaker, writer and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.