That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
As many of you may know, one of the ministries that I participate in, here at the parish is marriage preparation. In addition to covering with couples the sacramental component of marriage, I try to pass on some of the practical knowledge that the past twenty-four years of marriage has taught me. One thing I tell all couples is to expect the unexpected. We may lay out for ourselves the perfect plan for our future and something will come along, at an unexpected time, and derail our plans. I assure couples that there will be a time when you look across the table from your spouse and say, “I didn’t see that coming.”.
This evening, we heard St. Luke’s description of the walk to Emmaus. Two of Jesus’s disciples were making the seven-mile journey, in what I could only imagine was a mood that could best be described as incredulous. These disciples had witnessed much at the hand of Jesus. But to believe that he was raised from the dead, as told to the women by angels, that might be a stretch. Indeed, their skepticism was easily noticed by Jesus. No, I ‘m thinking that these two disciples were engaged in a conversation that might have sounded a little like this, “Jesus did so any things, he made blind people see, he cured lepers, he calmed a storm, heck, he even raised poor Lazarus from the dead. And he couldn’t stop the Romans from crucifying him? I did not see that coming.”
Their expectations for Jesus were not even close to the reality they witnessed. One might say that the plans, etched in their minds for the messiah, did not come close to the heavenly plan molded by the will of God.
So, these two disciples now find themselves alone, confused, and most likely in a state of shock. And at this most vulnerable time, who should enter the scene but none other than Jesus, himself. This same scenario occurs in our lives. How many times have we reached out to God in prayer and laid before him our confusion, our vulnerabilities, our shock and then asked God, “Why?” “Why did this happen?” Or worse yet, “God, why did you let this happen?”
The disciples expressed this same sentiment, to a degree, when they spoke to the man who they didn’t recognize yet as Jesus. And what does Jesus do? He points out using scripture and prophesy that the answers they sought were in front of them the whole time. Jesus walks them through the Old Testament to show them that the only possible outcome for the son of God was a sacrificial death. But when it comes down to it the disciples had a choice to make. Either cling to their own expectations and plans for the messiah. Or, take a leap of faith and see that they ought to seek out instead the will of God. And as we see this story play out, it is in seeking out the will of God that the disciples gain understanding.
So, knowing how astute this parish congregation is, I can guess your question. How does one gain an insight to the will of God? Well, this isn’t always easy but I would ask you to follow the along the path to Emmaus, metaphorically speaking .
When you find yourselves, like these disciples, alone, confused, perhaps in shock, or even saying to yourselves, “I did not see that coming”, seek out Jesus. Pray. Lay before him all that troubles you. Ask Jesus to reveal an understanding to you. Most importantly, free yourselves of your own expectations or plans and take the leap of faith that all of God’s plan will be revealed to you in time. Fully embracing the idea that God’s time is not necessarily our time.
Next, like the disciples, walk through scripture. Spend time in prayer and reflecting on the word of God. There is so much wisdom contained in scripture and it’s literally right there in front of us. Spend time going through the many times, God revealed himself and his will to countless generations. I guarantee that you will walk away from scripture with a greater understanding of your own situation.
Then, look to our Catholic traditions. Everything we do is designed to put us in a position to experience the risen Christ. Our prayers, our rituals, our sacraments, each has a purpose: to encounter God.
Remember, our greatest obstacle to experiencing Christ is ourselves. Our plans for the future and our expectations of how God should act in our lives, doesn’t leave room for the openness needed and the faith required to experience Christ on his terms.
I firmly believe and have often said that God meets us where we are. But this presupposes that we invite him in and are prepared to see him. This requires faith. Simply put, to gain an understanding into the will of God, we must truly believe that he will show it to us in a way that he chooses. More importantly, we must seek the openness to accept God’s will even if it is different from our own wants.
The Gospel passage ends in the most beautiful way. It was in the breaking of the bread that the disciples finally recognize Jesus. 2,000 years later we find ourselves experiencing that same walk to Emmaus. We each entered this church with something weighing on our hearts. We listened to scripture and have hopefully gained an understanding into the kingdom of God. And as we gather for communion, we like the disciples, recognize the true presence of Jesus in the breaking of the bread.