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The Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

Emmaus, A Road Filled With Questions

Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:10-17; Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

On Easter evening, two of Jesus’ disciples were returning to their village of Emmaus from Jerusalem. The road was long and winding. Their hearts were heavy with sorrow. The death of their beloved leader, Jesus, had plunged them into an impenetrable gloom. Their dreams about him being the long-awaited Messiah had been reduced to rubble. As they trudged along they spoke in hushed whispers about his death. They went over it again and again. They looked at it from every possible angle, and still it made no sense at all to them.

They did not even notice the stranger until he drew near. It was comforting somehow to have the company on this lonely stretch of road. They opened up to him, sharing their grief and uncertainty. It is amazing how easy it is sometimes to open up to someone you have never seen before. They almost felt as if they knew him. There was something about him that seemed so familiar. They spoke about their deep longing for the Messiah, about the hope that had filled them when they first met Jesus, about the events of the past few days, about the shattering of all their illusions.

“And now,” they told the stranger, “he’s been dead for three days. We were convinced that he was the Messiah, but now we know that we were wrong. It’s unthinkable!”

And the stranger opened up the Scriptures to them. “You think that because Jesus died like this he couldn’t possibly be the Messiah. Haven’t you read what the prophets said about the Messiah?”

Their hearts burned within them as they took in all that this man was saying. When they reached their home in Emmaus they invited him in. While he was at the table with them he took bread, blessed and broke it. It was in the breaking of the bread that it all became clear to them. They encountered the risen Christ. They saw with eyes of faith. They believed.

Like the two disciples on the road we may be going down a lonely stretch of road of our own. Even though we are believers, sometimes Jesus is little more than a shadowy figure living in the musty pages of the Bible. It is difficult to find any meaning to what we read. How can we, like the disciples, feel his presence at our side? Can we know Jesus in a personal way?
Haven't we all experienced the journey of the two disciples in some form or another? What does that road represent to you? Perhaps it is a road of disappointment, failure, sorrow, grief, shattered dreams, or lost jobs. Those are the very times that we most need to open our eyes to the risen Lord walking beside us on the road. Yet often we get so wrapped up in our problems that it is not until much later that we are able to understand that God has been with us all along.

It is so easy to lose our perspective when we are going through a difficult time. We are at a loss about what to do, about how to cope. We feel totally alone and inadequate. It is all we can do to simply cope day by day, or even hour by hour. Afterwards, perhaps even a long time afterwards, if we give ourselves the opportunity to reflect, we realize that we were not alone on the journey, that after all Jesus was there with us on the Emmaus road. We may even be grateful for what we learned in the experience. We may realize that because of it we are better people. We may come to understand in some tangible way the message of the resurrection. We may come to see the signs of resurrection in our own lives.

But it is not enough to just see it in our own lives. It was not enough for the two disciples. When they recognized the risen Christ they did not keep it to themselves. They made a choice to return to the city. They recounted what had happened on the road. They shared the good news that Christ was risen.

In turn we may become the companion on the way, the wounded healer. We may find ourselves called upon to deal with people who are hurting. We will find ourselves putting aside our feelings of inadequacy. We will discover within ourselves resources and gifts that we had no idea we possessed. After all, what it takes is something that we can all attain – a listening ear and a generous heart. If we learn to be good listeners we may find people searching us out to share their stories with us. As listeners we can hear their stories not only with our ears, but also with our hearts. Lovingly, patiently, we invite others to share what they need to share. Through sharing our hurts they lose their power. We are able to move forward towards healing, towards resurrection.

How do we share what has happened on our road to Emmaus? We all have a story to tell, but so many of us are silent. Like the disciples we need to make the choice to return to the city. We need to join the community of faith through which we are graced. We come together to be nurtured. We come together to break bread and drink the cup of blessing. We are sent out to spread the good news and to break the bread of life with others. Only if we are willing to do this can Christ be recognized in the Christian community today.

So often we do not share because we are afraid that we will not know what to say. It does not take words. It takes actions. It takes relationships. We have seen the risen Christ. He is at work in our lives. What remains is for us to share that good news with a broken world that so badly needs to come into relationship with a loving God.
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