What is Emmaus?
In the Gospel today (Lk 24: 13-35) we can see a beautiful summary of our journey of faith – the road to Emmaus is like the path of faith that we walk in life.
When we meet the disciples on the road to Emmaus, they have already experienced a lot. Jesus’ tomb had already been found empty. The women had already disturbed the small Christian community when they announced to them that the body of Jesus had not been found there. And so some of the disciples and followers of Jesus had made the decision to leave Jerusalem – including these two men, headed for Emmaus.
Today, many of us may resemble Cleopas and the other disciple. Sometimes it seems that we have lost our faith in Jesus. Sometimes we appear hopeless and disappointed. We stop recognizing and looking for the reasons for our faith – the reasons to persevere in hope. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, sometimes it all seems too hard, and we just want to give up. To quit. When we get like this, when our minds are filled with clouds of doubt and our hearts are troubled, it can be difficult for anything or any one to break through. Maybe some of us tonight feel like those disciples headed for Emmaus. We keep going to Mass – but only in body. Our minds are on the road to Emmaus – running away in doubt and fear.
At the core, Emmaus is DISAPPOINTMENT.
But something happens to the disciples as they are fleeing. They meet another traveler and they walk together for a while. This person seems to be unaware of everything that had occurred in Jerusalem – everything that had consumed the thoughts of these disciples as they walked. How could he be unaware of the way Jesus had preached? The mighty deeds He accomplished? How could he be unaware of the terrible death Jesus had suffered on the cross?
It is in this moment of confusion for the disciples when they pronounce a very meaningful phrase. They say, “We thought that Jesus was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” In other words, they thought that Jesus was to be the liberator of Israel. Powerful. Unstoppable. But from the perspective of their own limited understanding.
Brothers and sisters of St Mark’s, here is a very important key to grasping what happened on that road to Emmaus. The road to Emmaus is a CONFESSION. It’s the confession of a faith that is too anchored to this world. A faith that can’t quite see from God’s perspective. And a faith that is stuck there in the physical – that can’t see the spiritual – is a faith that is destined to end in frustration.
But notice as well – the disciples are still able to listen – to be open – to accept correction – to learn.
We said that Emmaus represented DISAPPOINTMENT. But Emmaus is also a sign of HOPE!
In the Gospel today, the disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Like them, we can be satisfied. At least we can go this far – to receive what we are open to receiving – that which can satisfy our hunger.
In every Catholic Mass, brothers and sisters, the bread acquires the meaning of DIVINE LIFE – a meaning that is given by Our Lord. We are always able to receive that Divine Life. And we have hope that we can take that gift and share it with others. The gift of Divine Life in the Mass is something that is going to happen until the end of times. We have the promise of God! And if we reflect of our own experience of that Divine Life – the same experience the disciples had after that long walk to Emmaus – we will see that it is an experience of faith.
What happens to us on the road to Emmaus?
• We can find ourselves on the road to Emmaus when we run away from our community of believers (our family, our parish, a group of faithful friends) --- but also when we come back to that community after a personal experience with The Lord.
• We can find ourselves on the road to Emmaus when we experience disappointment --- but we can also regain the light of faith and the great blessing of Hope.
• We can find ourselves on the road to Emmaus when we forget our first vocation to holiness --- but we can also recognize the voice of our Lord in Scripture, and in the words of others, who call us back to God.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” (#266), Pope Francis reminds us of these lessons from Emmaus.
He says, “it is not the same thing to have known Jesus as not to have known him, not the same thing to walk with him as to walk blindly, not the same thing to hear his word as not to know it, and not the same thing to contemplate him, to worship him, to find our peace in him, as not to. It is not the same thing to try to build the world with his Gospel as to try to do so by our own lights.”
Lord Jesus Christ, we believe that you are a Living God. Thank you for the gift of our faith – and for the gift of our Hope. We place them in You. Help us to recognize you as our God and Savior among us. Send us to announce your Resurrection to those you have entrusted to us, with trust in You. Amen.