Walking to Emmaus
Today’s gospel is perhaps the most beautiful of all the resurrection narra- tives. Each time it is read, it manages to capture the imagination in a new and different way, so as to penetrate our minds as it shapes our re- sponses to whatever situation we find ourselves in. It is perfectly crafted to answer our doubts and uncertainties and to then engage and animate us to take up the call to become disciples ourselves.
Luke, who compsed the narrative, very cleverly keeps the identity of one of the travellers secret. I think that this was quite deliberate on his part as he must have known who that person was. But keeping that person anonymous makes it possible for each of us to enter the story, feeling that in a mysterious way, this unknown disciple takes on a universality with which we can all identify. Perhaps Luke is telling us that each and every disciple at sometime in their life, will walk this road to Emmaus. In other words, our own pathway to faith and understanding will take us on a journey of loss and of doubt, or a journey of despair and sadness. A journey that takes us away from what we had expected and wanted to happen, and into circumstances which we could never have catered for. But it is only when we are on that journey, debating and quarrelling about the things that really matter the most to us, that the perspective of what we think and believe changes. What that perspective is, is revealed to these two travellers by the one who comes to walk alongside them and who ultimately opens their eyes so that they see anew what was already self evident to them in the story they told.
Everything they say to their fellow journeyman is couched in terms of our Christian belief, but they speak with faces downcast. They tell of how, in and through the words and deeds of Jesus, they had come to a conviction about who he was and what he was going to offer—nothing less than their freedom from what bound them. They even describe the fact of the resur- rection, and thus the source of their freedom, without realising the signifi- cance of what they are saying. Isn’t this exactly what we sometimes ex- perience? We recite our creed and we make our confession of faith with faces downcast.
Every day brings its new challenges and we have a choice to make about our direction of travel. Are we to journey further and further away from Jerusalem, never seemingly able to arrive at our Emmaus? Never seem- ingly willing to reach out to the one who walks beside us? Or are we ready when we think we’ve reached our moment of decision, to ask him to stay with us. He will of course never abandon us, rather he always accepts our invitation and invites us to stop walking and to sit down with him. And then he will take the bread, the symbol of what and who we are, and he will make it sacred and sacramental, changing it and us and caus- ing us to walk a different path