Could it be that two thousand years ago, the Holy Spirit inspired St. Luke to write this event in the life of two of Jesus’ disciples in such a gripping way that we can see ourselves in many of its details?
The geography has changed, of course; the issues are somewhat diverse; our concerns and fears are of a different nature; but the anguish, the worries, and the gloominess of the future ahead of us is so strikingly similar!
The apparent lack of knowledge of recent events prompting the question of the two downcast disciples heading for Emmaus: “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” can be easily changed by us into: “Are you the only one in America who has been completely isolated from what is going on in this country and the rest of the world?”
“Are you the only citizen of this beloved yet troubled country who doesn’t know how unsafe we feel about many things, many situations, and the many threats lurking in places in which we used to feel safe and enjoyed life?
As believers, we might also have other questions concerning the Church that worry us considerably and keep us edgy.
The good news which we seem to forget too quickly and without much resistance from our heart is that, in his infinite empathy for our predicament, the Lord draws near and shares our journey. Then, the question we must ask ourselves right away is why we fail to recognize him.
I have this irksome feeling that we are kept from recognizing the presence of the Lord walking patiently by our side due to a massive combination of mounting uncertainties, faith worn out by relentless challenges, fruitless efforts resulting in a degree of pessimism, and visible impatience that exposes our spotty reliance on the Lord.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, how many days, or weeks, or months has it been since we walked patiently in the Lord’s presence with a joyful heart and a serene mind? The two disciples heading downcast towards Emmaus had their hopes shattered in less than three days! They had eaten the Bread of life at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday evening. (That must have been the highest apex of their spiritual life.)
But then, with the arrest of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, his sham trial during the night, his horrific torture by the Roman soldiers, his crucifixion on Golgotha and his burial, all their hopes had vanished inexorably.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:21)
We cannot repeat their colossal mistake of letting our hope in the Lord be erased—and erased so quickly! The empty tomb, the witnessing of the women, the vision of angels announcing that he was alive had become for these two “impatient” disciples insufficient evidence to keep living with genuine hope grounded on his words about the need for the time of his passion and death before his glorious resurrection.
There is a phrase from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans we should keep as a reminder that the only way we can be saved is by never losing hope.
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. (Romans 8:24-25)
As he walks with us, Sunday after Sunday, at the Table of his Word, the Lord explains to us how the script that the Father asked him, the Son, to follow included the necessity of suffering—very concrete suffering which included the cross. The script revealed through Moses and the prophets was unmistakably clear on that.
Whenever, for a variety of reasons, we are kept from recognizing the Lord walking with us, we should look back and see, in the light of the Holy Spirit, how the Lord has been assisting us to follow our individual script and how all the individual scripts make up the script the Father has planned for our Community of Faith, for the whole Church.
The details could be different, but the essential parts are a reflection of the script planned by the Father for his Son Jesus. Without a doubt, our salvation, our share in the glory of the Lord Jesus requires of us to live with patient endurance.
Patient endurance means that we abandon completely our hasty timetable and adopt the one spelled out in the script prepared by the Father. And for this to happen it is necessary that our hearts are kept burning with an intense blaze whenever we feed at the Table of God’s Word and the Holy Scriptures are explained to us.
Many things, some pleasant, but many unpleasant and painful will happen on the way to our heavenly destination. But we should have learned from this page of the gospel of Luke that the Lord has prepared a Community of Faith (the Church) to help us recognize him in the breaking of the Bread (Eucharist) and continue our journey, patiently, with firm hope.