Have you ever been broken by something or someone to the extent that life appears unbearable and hopeless for you? Recently, I was listening to the story of a lady during this coronavirus siege. With teary eyes, she said that four people in her life had been infected by the virus: her husband, her parents, and her mother-in-law. With a broken heart, she concluded, saying that she feels like walking away to some far-away place by herself.
Sometimes, life pushes us to the point that we want to walk away to someplace. The two disciples in the Gospel today (Luke 24:13-35) had a similar experience. Cleopas and another unnamed disciple had it up to the point that they decided to walk away from Jerusalem (the city of peace) to Emmaus (the warm spring), a journey of about seven miles by foot. Symbolically one has a name, and the other is unknown, showing us that often in life, we battle with the known and the unknown.
Remember that all the disciples fled when Jesus was arrested and taken away (Mark 14:51). On Good Friday, as the Lord was beaten, dragged, and laden with the cross, the disciples were nowhere close. John only showed up at the foot of the cross when Jesus was about to die (John 19:26-27).
Early on Easter Sunday, news came that the Lord has risen from the dead. But wait, there were versions of visions and appearances with women as primary witnesses, which the Jewish culture of the time was not quick to validate. One can only imagine the level of despair in the two disciples, which made them walk away from Jerusalem and heading towards Emmaus with broken hearts.
The Gospel narrates that they were conversing and debating as the walk to Emmaus. We can imagine one saying, “I think he has truly risen,” and the other replying and saying, “I doubt if the Lord has truly risen, if he did, he would come to us and save us this headache and confusion.” Suddenly the Lord appeared and joined them in the journey to Emmaus. They were talking about the Lord, and he showed up. They were empty, disturbed, harassed, uncertain and bewildered, and for the fact that they desired to have the Lord in their midst, he appeared and walked with them.
However, their hearts closed, so they did not recognize the Lord when he joined them in the walk to Emmaus. Sometimes in life, problems, and challenges becloud our minds that we fail to see God even when He is remarkably close to us. Our brokenness often breaks our vision of the reality of God’s presence.
When the Lord walked in and asked them the topic of their debate, they were disappointed to see a “visitor” in the area who did not know the breaking news about Jesus Christ. Anyone asking why churches are locked this time would look preposterous when everyone knows that it is because of the virus. When our Lord started sharing the scriptural backstory of the Christ, it became clear that the two disciples were more ignorant than the so-called “visitor.”
The high point was when they got to Emmaus, the Lord made to leave, but they implored him to stay on with them. “Stay with us,” they said. The company of the Lord was so soothing and transforming that they wanted more of his presence. The Risen Lord liberated them from their confusion and elevated them to the point of desiring the Lord’s fellowship, and they got it. “Stay with us, Lord,” should be your prayer at this time because that is all we need.
Later, while they were at the table, Jesus took bread and breaking it, he gave to them, and their eyes opened, and they recognized the Lord, but he vanished from their sight. At the breaking of bread, the Lord healed their brokenness.
We could call this the Eucharistic moment. It is the moment when the brokenness of our Lord in the Eucharist meets our brokenness to bring about our healing. It was after the breaking of the bread that they recognized the Lord, and they believed that he has indeed risen, and they could not wait to spread the good news.
Many of us are at the brink with various kinds of challenges arising from the situation facing us. Like the outcry of Hezekiah in Isaiah (38:10-20), we feel like departing to Sheol in the noontide of our days. Yes, COVID-19 has broken a lot of people with the rapid spread and the consequences; it is worse than then as we cannot walk away like the two disciples; where would you walk to at this time?
However, there is good news. This condition would never be our conclusion. There is hope that the risen Lord would meet us as we undertake our spiritual journey to Emmaus this season. This, too, shall pass. We shall rejoice again. Let us then bring our brokenness to the Lord at the take of the Eucharist so that his broken body will heal our broken hearts. Stay home, stay safe, and be protected by the Risen Lord. God bless you.