We are on the Road to Emmaus. For those of you who are my age, this sounds like a set up for another of Bing Crosby – Bob Hope famous “Road” movies.
The Gospel of Luke, shares with us the story of two disciples, Cleopas and another “disciple” who is not identified, traveling from on foot from Jerusalem to Emmaus- a seven mile journey. Though not mentioned anywhere else in scripture, it is thought by many theologians that Cleopas was also “Clopas”; he being the brother of Saint Joseph, therefore Jesus’ uncle. I believe this to be the case, as there are those who spell my name correctly- Bryan, and others who spell it Brian. Nevertheless, I digress.
As these two disciples walk along, they are discussing the unfortunate events of Easter that occurred just three days prior. The arrest, conviction and unexpected crucifixion and death of Jesus upon the Cross. This was a serious, solemn and somber discussion. Though they had heard of the Easter morning proclamation of the women who visited the now empty tomb, they had not seen it. They were despondent and discouraged. Despite the predictions of the prophets, this was more than they had anticipated. To them, their world had collapsed. There was too much lost. They had followed Jesus, with much dedication and vigor. They believed that now at last it seemed as if the Messiah had indeed come- with all the hope and promise of the rise and redemption of Israel. Then in those events of a few brief days- it is all gone. How could this be? There are been such a groundswell of emotion among so many people, it seemed certain Jesus was who he said he was. They discussed these change in events with disbelief. The foreboding question- perhaps Jesus was not who he portrayed himself to be? Maybe Jesus was just another prophet and their wait for a Messiah would continue? Dare they think, they had even been misled. They had been duped!
So preoccupied with these things that they could not even focus their attention properly, when they encountered a stranger along the way. The stranger- no secret to us because we have been let in on the story, is Jesus. The stranger inquires of their intense conversation.
“Who was this guy? This stranger.” They must have thought. Had he been living under a rock? All of Jerusalem knew of the execution of this “King of the Jews”. Word had spread far and wide in such a short time, as Jerusalem we know was crowded for the Passover celebration.
Continuing on their walk to Emmaus and now joined by this inquisitive stranger, they Jesus the story- the things that had in Jerusalem. In recounting the events, it ultimately leads back to their disappointment. They now must have even shared their consternation with the stranger- who was Jesus? Was Jesus indeed, just another prophet? Where was the redemption of Israel? Where was the destruction of Rome? Where was the anxiety in the hearts and minds of the Romans as to what they had done- killing the Son of God? And if the story of the empty tomb were true- where was the Risen Christ?
Gradually as they walk, the stranger attempts to rekindle their faith. Jesus shares with them all the great knowledge of the prophets- the lessons and the prophecies about the coming Messiah. But so caught up in their depression and disappointment- nothing registered with them. His words seemed to “go in one ear and out the other.”
We get like that. We get like that all too often. We become so caught up in the things that went wrong. I myself suffered such a recent stumbling. At one moment things seem to be going to well and then- in just a matter of hours, everything seemed to have turned upside down. How easily we can let our emotions overwhelm us. We become confounded. Like Cleopas I question, “How could this be?” It becomes one of those moments where you want to shut the phone off, crawl back into bed and throw the blankets over your head. Tomorrow is another day.
Nearing Emmaus and knowing evening is coming, Cleopas and his companion invite the “stranger” to join them for dinner. Remembering always that in the days of Christ, hospitality was the greatest gift to be offered. Nights in the dessert were inhospitable and to be so- was a sin to be avoided. The true sin of Sodom.
So, this “stranger”; well versed in his knowledge of scripture and the prophets, joins them for dinner. While they were at the table and about to eat- the “stranger” takes the bread and to show his gratitude for their hospitality, says the blessing prayers. He then brakes the bread and shares it with them.
A revelation! An epiphany! This “stranger” was Jesus! All along their walk on the road to Emmaus- and wonder of the Christ, the Risen Christ had been with them! Their eyes had been opened! The Last Supper is recreated! The Holy Eucharist! In that fleeting moment of faith restored, Christ vanishes.
What about us? Where are we in our dark moments? Are we lost? Are we walking alone on that dusty road to Emmaus?
The world can be- is, such a place where everyone can easily feel beyond all hope. There are increasing terrorist attacks and wars. Refugees by the hundreds of thousands. Families broken and displaced. There are the problems of the world without these- hunger, disease, poverty and want.
Where is Christ for you? Is he with you? Are you with Him? Is there prayer or just pity? Where is your faith? Are you even aware of those around you? Family? Friends? Those who might be able to help or hold answers? Where is the Risen Christ?
You travel that dusty long, and sometimes lonely, road to Emmaus. Is the Risen Christ with you? Are your eyes open and focused, to engage a stranger? The Book of Hebrews enlightens us, careful of your words or actions- for in strangers, some have attended to angels.
Who walks with you on your road to Emmaus?
Father Wolf is a retired police officer in New Jersey, the pastor of St. Aelred’s Parish, and an Assisting Priest at Saint Miriam Parish and Friary in the Old Catholic Churches International.