The Emmaus story is probably my favourite passage in the NT and it has lots to say to us about where we find ourselves just now. It is really about two disciples trying to make sense of their lives that seem to have been set spiraling in the wrong direction. Much like ourselves, where our world is reeling from the effects of this Corona virus, we may feel as if we are journeying away from Jerusalem, the place of our hopes dreams and expectations.
At least there were two of them and they were talking. That is a big thing because when something happens we tend to go into isolation where we just talk to ourselves but can’t make sense of anything. The stranger joins them and they tell him their story of disappointment and shattered hopes. Two things they can’t hold together, the death of Jesus and their hope in him. His death has cancelled out their hope. They are hopeless and helpless.
How could the death of Jesus be understood as anything more than a tragic end to a life so full of promise. Death was the end of the road of promise and it is also the death of their relationship with him. They are now ex disciples of a dead prophet and their faces match their story. One translation says that their faces were, twisted with grief.
Like so many they have heard of the Resurrection, some women have reported their experience at the empty tomb, but it has not yet become real for them. They fail to recognize the stranger who walks by their side as the Christ. Why? I would think for the very good reason that they are still living Good Friday and not Easter Sunday. Like so many, what had happened in the past had robbed them of hope for the future, and they had no eyes to see life in the present.
What does Christ do? He invites them to tell the story of what has happened and how it has affected them, even though he knows it all too well. In the telling of their story he was also helping them to get in touch with their emotions which is essential for healing to take place. Then he proceeds to place their small story within a much bigger context. Was it not ordained that the Christ would suffer in order to enter into his glory. In so doing he helps them to find meaning in what has taken place. Finding their place in the bigger picture had the effect of setting their hearts on fire.
That’s the beauty of the Scriptures. When the Word is broken in a life giving way, and not treated in an academic manner, it can literally set us on fire with enthusiasm. I attended scripture lectures for six years while in Maynooth and never once came away inspired, it was boring academic and historical. I even have a degree in the stuff that is of very limited value. Then one day I heard a woman explore just one passage and it just changed my life. I also realized that if such riches could be found in one parable then the entire Bible was a treasure throve waiting to be discovered. That woman had awakened in me a life long love of the Scriptures.
For that reason I made a resolution that when I became a priest and was saying Mass I would never miss an opportunity to break the Word and in a way that relates to life. I always deem it a great privilege to be able to offer insight, hope and meaning because that is my own experience of the Word. After forty years of preaching my heart is more on fire with the Word than ever.
During these strange times I deem it a great privilege to be able to share the Scripture and a daily reflection each day. The feedback is very positive and I am amazed at the thousands who have made it part of their daily ritual and treat it as their daily bread.
If we were only to eat once a week our bodies would be totally malnourished. Where our weekly diet had become confined just to mass at weekends our souls must have been dying from malnutrition without us even realizing that we were so hungry.
I would appreciate your prayers that the daily bread would be fresh from the oven each day so that like the disciples on the road to Emmaus our hearts would burn within us as we listen to the Lord’s life giving Word.