As we continue our journey through the Season of Easter, today we encounter the two disciples on the road to the village of Emmaus. Saint Luke tells us that it was still the first day of the week
(Lk 24: 13), presumably sometime in the afternoon. Two of the disciples -
not necessarily the Apostles - were going to ... Emmaus, about eleven kilometres from Jerusalem.
They had heard news about the women who had witnessed the apparitions that morning, and they had heard about Peter and John who had also gone to the tomb (cf Lk 24: 22-24). At some point later on that day, these disciples were walking along and talking with each other about all the things that had happened
(Lk 24: 14). While they were talking, ... Jesus came near and walked with them but their eyes were kept from recognizing him
(Lk 24: 15-16).
Are we not like these two disciples? Has it ever happened that we had made great plans for a family gathering, or for a birthday party to celebrate a major milestone in the life of someone we love ... and then, at the last moment, the plans had to be changed? In these weeks and months of quarantine, some of us may be keenly aware of such celebrations that had been planned: for weddings, for parties, for holidays or for family reunions ... or for any of a number of other reasons, and now these plans have been put on hold or even cancelled because we cannot travel, because we must stay home, because we must keep our distance. Even if we have managed to postpone and not to cancel our plans altogether, there is still an element of disappointment when we have to change them.
The discussions that were taking place between these two disciples were filled with disappointment. They were Jesus' followers. They had come to trust him. They believed that he was the Messiah, and now he was dead. He had suffered greatly, in a way that could not have been possible for an all-powerful leader. He had died on the cross and they had buried his body. In the image of these two disciples on the road, on their way back home, we see all our disappointments too. Their hopes were not only put on hold; it seemed as though they had hoped in vain ... then a stranger came along and walked with them. He was going in the same direction and he joined in with their conversation.
This is what Jesus does with each one of us: he meets us where we are, on the road. He begins by asking us to tell the story: to tell him what's going on in our lives, who we are, what worries us, what we're excited about ... In the case of these disciples, they stood still, looking sad ... then one of them said: 'Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?
(Lk 24: 18). It was as though this man had just woken up and realized that this stranger who was walking with them appeared to have no idea about the tragedy that had occurred. When we are saddened, when we are grieving, it is difficult if not impossible for us to think that anyone could exist that does not know our pain, but this was Jesus' way of gently inviting these two disciples to open their hearts. He invited them to begin by telling their story, explaining their grief in their own words ... and that is exactly what they did.
As the journey went on, Jesus helped them to understand the truth about what had happened. Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures
(Lk 24: 27). Jesus is always infinitely patient with us. No matter how long it takes us to wake up from our grief, he is always ready to console us, he is always ready to help us to understand what's really going on. As he spoke with them on the road that day, their hearts burned within them (cf Lk 24: 32). They became excited again, but this excitement was not confirmed until their eyes were opened and they recognized him
at the table in the evening hours of that day (Lk 24: 31).
When they recognized what had happened, they got up and immediately returned to Jerusalem, found the apostles and their companions ... and told them what had happened on the road
(Jn 24: 33, 35). Jesus encouraged their hearts that day. He taught them some valuable lessons and he confirmed them in their faith. Jesus is ready to do that for us too. When we are surrounded by doubts, he is waiting on the side of the road, ready to walk with us, to talk with us, to listen to us and to remind us that he did suffer and die for us: these were horrific realities, but he also rose to new life. This is the cause of our great joy. Each year, during this season of Easter, we celebrate Christ's victory over death. Let us ask Him to encourage our hearts, to help us to understand and to grant us the grace of experiencing our hearts burning within us so that we too will get up immediately and go out to others so that we can tell them the good news; we have met the risen Lord! We have recognized him in the breaking of the bread! (cf Lk 24: 35)