Once upon a time, two young men set out on a long journey to consult a wise man in a certain town very far from where they live; it was a two-day journey by foot. The two young men had planned to see the sage to get answers to the hardship and difficulties in their lives; they wanted to know how they could succeed in life and do away with hardships.
Early morning on the second day of their journey they came across an old man along the same road who was walking slowly with a heavy load on his head. One of them suggested that they help the old man but the other bluntly refused and mentioned that helping the old man would delay their journey. The one who suggested the assistance went ahead to help the old man with his load while his friend wished him good luck and hurried into the town to search for the sage.
The old man asked the young man where they were going and the reason for their visit. The young man told him that they heard about one wise man and they have come to consult with him about the hardship and difficulties they were experiencing. The old man told the young man that he knew the whereabout of the wise man and offered to take him to the place through a shorter route by a bush path.
In few minutes, they came to a house in the middle of the forest, and the old man asked the young man to come along with him into the house without doors. As they entered the house, the old man said to the young man “welcome to my house I am the one you seek!”. The young man was shocked by the news and could only stare at him.
The old man told his visitor that his hardship and difficulties were lifted from him that moment he lifted the load from his head and carried it to his house. Hence, he would prosper greatly in all his plans. When he inquired about his friend, the old man told him that it will take his friend twenty-one days to find the route to his house and since he is not the patient and attentive type he would never get there. The young man later left and became a very wealthy and successful man. His friend came back after a fruitless search for the wise man only to be told story about what happened when he departed in a hurry and without consideration for the old man who turned out to be the wise man.
We could connect with the story above when sometimes we frantically search for things not realizing that they are just within our reach; that is the result of ignorance. Ignorance is a virus that can diminish us without sparing a bit of us. Knowledge is key to many things; no wonder the oracle of Hosea made it clear that my people perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). And our Lord Jesus Christ wept over Jerusalem because of the people’s ignorance (Luke 19:41-42).
The Gospel Reading today (Luke 24:13-35)) tells us about one of the post-resurrection pilgrimages and the destination was Emmaus, which means warm spring. Two disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ left Jerusalem in utter despair and were going to Emmaus for a reason we do not know. The arrest, passion, and death of our Lord Jesus Christ brought about the scattering of the disciples (Mark 14:50). The resurrection was supposed to bring them together, but the multiplicity of stories about the empty tomb, appearances of angels at the tomb including the rumor that the disciples came to take the body away while the soldiers were sleeping (Matt. 28:13) brought so much confusion and disquiet.
The two disciples could have left Jerusalem (the city of peace) because peace eluded them. The set out on a pilgrimage to Emmaus (warm spring) to see if they could get some inner warmth. On their way, they kept reflecting on the event of the time; the variety of stories concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Suddenly our Lord appeared in their midst in the form of a co-traveller to Emmaus and asked them what they were talking about, and they were surprised to learn that he was perhaps the only visitor to Jerusalem who was ignorant of the current story about Jesus Christ. More like someone visiting the USA at the peak of the presidential campaigns and election and claiming not to know what’s on the news.
By the time our appearing Lord opened the scriptures to them and began to tell them about the Messiah and his salvific mission they became speechless and began to understand how foolish and ignorant they were. At first, they blamed the “co-traveller” for his ignorance about the events of the time, but after the exposition, our Lord accosted them for their foolishness and ignorance of the scriptures which according to St. Jerome is ignorance of Christ.
After the heart-warming sermon on the road to Emmaus, the two disciples could not but indulge in the company of our Lord to the extent that they did not allow him to go as they earnestly pleaded “stay with us!” That evening while they were at the table our Lord broke the bread and gave them, and instantly their eyes opened, and they recognized him, but he immediately disappeared out of their sight.
The journey to Emmaus leaves us with a lot of crucial lessons. It is a journey from fear to faith, a journey from despair to peace, a journey from a cold heart to a warm heart, a journey from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge, journey from nowhere to somewhere, a journey from foolishness to wisdom.
The Resurrection of Faith.
The two disciples represent the two prominent dispositions in our life: doubt (fear) and faith. Before the Emmaus encounter, they were filled with doubts as they were recounting the disconnected stories about the resurrection from various witnesses. In their doubts, their minds were closed from remembering and reflecting on the scriptures. Our Lord’s appearance to them was to transform their fear into faith. The word of God tells us that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17).
We are like these disciples. We often forget the promises of God and prefer to remember and magnify the problems around us. We often forget what God says He would do in every situation and only remember what our situation is doing to us. We often remember that we are passing through the valley of the shadow of death and forget that God says that he would be with us; with his crook and staff, He would comfort us (Psalm 23:4). We often drop the shield of faith (Eph.6:16 ) in our battle as the soldiers of Christ.
The Resurrection of Opened Eyes.
At the beginning of the Gospel narrative, we learn that the eyes of the two disciples were prevented (closed) from recognizing our Lord when he joined them on the pilgrimage to Emmaus. Often, we fail to recognize the Lord in our lives because of our spiritual blindness which could be because of sin or our lack of faith. One of the young men in our opening story was unable to recognize the wise man they seek because of his impatience and lack of the milk of kindness.
Fast forwarding to the post-dinner breaking of bread, we learn that the eyes of the disciples opened. It is important to note here that they had to hear the word of God first before their eyes opened during the breaking of bread. Today we have two locations that would bring about the opening of our eyes. We are called to the liturgy of the word of God first and then to participate actively in the liturgy of the Eucharist where we receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Resurrection of Burning Hearts.
There is a very significant difference between the HEAD and the HEART. The head is the seat of reason while the heart is the seat of faith which connects us with God. Before the encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ, the two disciples were operating on the platform of reason. Their discussion was an entire exercise in rationalization. They were trying to be logical in their reasoning forgetting that with God, logic has no relevance. The resurrection is not a product of reason but an element of faith.
During the scripture exposition that our Lord made with them and for them, their hearts were burning, but they could not attend to that. It was at the point when their eyes opened that the remembered how their hearts were burning when the Lord was explaining the scriptures to them.
We are challenged to allow our hearts to burn for the Lord not our heads like the Athenians who rejected Paul’s preaching about the resurrection because it made no logical sense for them (Acts 17:18–34). The problem with our world today is that people would like everything to be logical and reasonable before they could be accepted. But our Christian vocation tells us to believe first even when we do not have a reasonable evidence (Heb.11:1).
As we continue to reflect on the message of today, let us rise to our Emmaus pilgrimage. Emmaus stands for a profound encounter of faith. Emmaus stands for a more in-depth understanding of the word of God that would open our eyes and burn our hearts for the Lord. Emmaus represents the presence of God in our lives as He stays with us to renew us and make us better and believing children of his.
Have an Emmaus Sunday and more graces in the coming week.