Reflection on the Emmaus Story

Scripture: Luke 24:13-35

We often describe our life as a journey. The Benedictine tradition speaks of a shared journey on the road. We speak of Christ on that journey with us, bringing us all together to everlasting life. The Gospel of Luke retells the familiar story of two of Jesus’ disciples on their journey to the village of Emmaus.

Cleopas and his companion were grieving after the death of Jesus and confused about the rumors that he is alive. While most of Jesus’ other followers remained in Jerusalem, for some reason, these two needed to get away and get out of the city.

Perhaps they were afraid and didn’t want to hide away with the others in the locked upper room. The life they had known with Jesus was over and would never be the same. They had lost all hope. Perhaps they expected to seek refuge in their former way of life in their hometown, Emmaus. Yet the seven-mile journey brought them no peace. Cleopas and the other disciple continued along the road, discussing and debating, without answers to the questions which troubled them.

Today, like the two disciples, we may also find ourselves troubled and afraid. The world today is very different from only a few months ago. We remain together here on this journey, but the way feels confusing and dark. We are afraid of an illness that we don’t understand, and we miss the way things used to be. We don’t like the unexpected changes, and we don’t feel like we are in control. Like Cleopas and his companion, we may feel an urge to get out or get away from this new reality.

However, this confusion and fear is not the end of the story. The Gospel tells us that as Cleopas and his companion walked along, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. Perhaps their anxiety and fears blinded them, we don’t know. But what we do know is that in their time of grief, confusion, and sorrow, they were not alone. Jesus himself drew near to them and walked with them.

In this new age of social distancing and isolation, Jesus’ drawing near almost sounds strange. The CDC and World Health Organization have told us to try to keep six feet between us. Yet Jesus drew near to them, joining them on the journey. Jesus draws himself near to us too and walks with us, listens to us, and talks with us.

Do we recognize Jesus and welcome him on our journey? Today, may the Holy Spirit help us to open our hearts to be aware of Jesus’ presence here with us, and help us to see the face of Christ in one another. And may Christ bring us all together to everlasting life (RB 72.12).

Sister Jacqueline LeiterReflection by:

Sister Jacqueline Leiter, OSB