The Road to Emmaus is one of the most human stories in the New Testament. As we studied this scripture today in prayer group, meditating with the Holy Spirit for the upcoming Sunday’s readings, the revelations poured out. Had we three days to delve into this particular passage in Luke (24:13-35), it wouldn’t have been enough. Being a “cradle Catholic”, I was missing some of the real treasures of the church in my life, and “Emmaus” is one of the reasons I came into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
As a young adult, searching for meaning and feeling called to something, but not sure what, I attended mass on Sunday by myself and my spirit stirred when they announced at the end of mass that helpers were needed for youth group. I wasn’t sure how I qualified, but I called the number in the church bulletin and before I knew it I had a class of high school youth to call my own. The first class I taught to instill faith in high school aged kids was “Meditation”. Funny enough, I took a more “new age” view of breathing, calm music and incense. I too, was learning as we went. I know I directed the kids toward God, but perhaps without much of my own faith knowledge upon which to draw. The coordinator for that youth group, became a dear friend. As he drew me into friendship with his wife and himself, inviting to me to his home for a small bible study, taking me to youth ministry training seminars (to which I went without any expectations or presumptions for some reason) and being a mentor of faith that set the foundation upon which I would build my very own ministry. The name of his youth group at that time, was appropriately titled, “Emmaus”.
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were walking and talking about the events of recent past in which Jesus of Nazareth had performed miracle upon miracle, and then was crucified. The tomb was discovered empty and the grief and mystery of the events still hung over the community which had witnessed the events. Jesus appears and walks along with them, asking about which events they are speaking, and what happens next is no less astounding than it is perplexing.
The revelations of our group today were as follows:
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
- What is striking about this passage is that these two disciples walking and talking are just so human; by the way they are confused and distressed at the events of Jesus’ crucifixion. As they discuss it, we feel there is a sense of vulnerability and sincerity. They are moved by the way Jesus is revealed to them in the words he speaks. In their humanness, they don’t recognize him right away.
“Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”
- In our fear and sadness that comes with any strife in our lives, we often make this very human mistake of not recognizing where God is among us; not up in the Heavens looking down or watching us from afar, but AMONG us in our pain, grief, fear and adversity. We are so stricken with our own circumstances, that we don’t recognize Him. How can I train my heart to see Him by faith, before He must reveal Himself to me when I am in a moment of trial?
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us”
- The disciples are recognizing the quiet role that these women play in this amazing account after the crucifixion. They are the ones serving and watching at the tomb; they are the ones who run and tell the news that the tomb is empty; because of the times, women were not often written about in scripture, yet their role in salvation is important, worthy and recognized.
- Another member of the group stated that she read in a Catholic source that there was consideration that this couple walking to Emmaus were man and wife.
“Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way…”
- These two walking accepted this “stranger” (later revealed as Jesus) into their conversation and shared the news with him about the events that had taken place. Their charity in accepting him into the conversation, and sharing the details sets the tone and example for the first form of true evangelization among Christians. They were moved to share what they knew; they were–as scripture tells us to be–unafraid.
- It was noted that they may have faced grave consequences as other Christians were beginning to face for sharing this news; for example the apostles remained locked in the upper room out of fear for some time after the crucifixion.
- It was also noted that in TODAY’s society, much of the same courage and fearlessness is needed to share the gospel truth with others, for fear of persecution.
One member of our group mentioned that she is currently reading a book by Bishop Fulton Sheen, in which he discusses this scripture, and states that it establishes the very model of prayer with Our Lord. In other words; the two disciples walking:
3. Broke bread or came into spiritual communion with God.” When we pray, we too are to petition our God, listen to Him, and then come together with Him in the Holy Spirit in spiritual communion.
Ironically, when we went on to share cases today (situations in which the Lord shines through difficult circumstances…usually by way of an obedient servant), we discussed an exemplary family in one parish. Apparently, these parents of seven total children (three from her first marriage before her previous husband died, and four more of their own union) came together to serve the church. Like the quiet servants, they too acted “behind the scenes”, supporting the church’s call for volunteers in various ministries, and were always quietly present in the community, serving with joy. Apparently, two older sisters in the same parish and who lived together in a house decided upon their own deaths, to gift this large beautiful family, who had not much to claim of their own, their own house. The sisters had taken notice of the quiet but joyful family of servants in their parish. The provision was one lacking in expectation and pretension on both sides, making it all the sweeter and Divine.
The human quality is undefinable. Quiet service and humble astonishment make a cocktail of the most admired people in history; Pope John Paul II, Mother Theresa, and even cultural figures such as Abraham Lincoln. You may know such a person as this in your own life. I suggest taking a moment to recognize them in some way; a note, message or prayer.
As a group, however, we decided our apostolic action this week would be to discuss with our own families what our mission under God looks like in serving the church and community. This family had been extremely intentional in how they wanted to spend their time. How many times has a weekend gone by before we realize we did nothing to give to God what was already His in the first place…time.
Prayerfully, we decided to appeal to St Joseph the Worker, whose feast day is Monday, as St Joseph so diligently cared for Jesus and his Blessed Mother through his hard work, and we want the example of what it takes to raise a Holy Family from the one who raised the Holiest Family of all ages.
One member of our group suggested a tradition of serving “Sloppy Joseph’s” sandwiches on Monday in honor of St Joseph, and having the kids sign a card telling their dad, “the worker” (or mom), “thank you” for all the wonderful gifts and provisions that he (or she) has provided for his/her family.
I pray that you and I walk to Emmaus (or wherever God is leading us) asking to be filled with the knowledge and wisdom and intention that comes from understanding that GOD IS WITH US, and He made us to serve Him and be an example of His love to one another.