Emmaus

What is your Emmaus?

Have you ever felt like you just had to get away?

Or felt like life had given you more than you could handle?

Have you ever run away from life?

Have you ever been deeply disappointed?

Have you lived with unmet expectations?

When have you felt lost, as if your world had been turned upside down?

Can you remember a time when you did everything right and life still didn’t work out the way you planned or wanted?

Have you grieved the death of a loved one, a dream, an identity, a future?

Has your life ever been shattered?

If so, then you know what it’s like to be Cleopas and his companion in the Gospel today.

Emmaus

Today’s gospel (Luke 24:13-35), the road to Emmaus story, is an inspiration to me. It reveals intersections of Jesus’ life and our lives. It begs to be recognized as a story about our lives, and it is a story with which we are familiar. It is a story of shattering and restoration. If your life has ever been shattered then this is your story. If your life has ever been restored then this is your story. And if you’ve ever been in that in between place, between shattering and restoration, then this is your story. In photo: my first visit in St. John of Nepomucene Parish in Alfonso, Cavite during the Holy Week.

It’s Easter morning and the two disciples are leaving Jerusalem. Who can blame them?

Jerusalem is a place of pain, sorrow, and loss. It’s a place of death, unmet expectations, and disappointment. It’s a place where their lives were shattered. No one wants to stay in that place.

As they walk they are talking about all the things that happened, and, I suspect, all the things that didn’t happen.

They are talking about Jesus’ arrest, torture, crucifixion, and death. They are taking about hope that didn’t materialize, expectations that were unmet, investments that paid no return. They are disappointed and sad. They had hoped Jesus was the one, but he’s dead. And there’s a part of them that’s been lost, a part of them that died with Jesus. They had heard rumors that he was alive but it all sounded like an “idle tale” (Luke 24:11).

There was nothing to keep them in Jerusalem. Their lives had been shattered.

I don’t know why they chose to go to Emmaus, but I’ve known times when I just wanted to get away, when any place was better than where I was. Any place would be better than Jerusalem.

Emmaus is our escape from life. Or so we think. What we don’t know at the time, and what Cleopas and his companion did not know, is that it is also the way back to life. That realization happened for the two disciples, as it does for us, in the breaking of the bread.

It wasn’t an escape from life that took them to Emmaus, but a hunger for life. It wasn’t brokenness that took them to Emmaus but a hunger for wholeness. It wasn’t a shattering that took them to Emmaus, but a hunger for restoration.

Hunger is more than physical, it also spiritual and emotional. We are by nature hungry. We hunger for life, love, wholeness, community, meaning, purpose. That hunger is surely the reason they strongly urged Jesus, “Stay with us.” Jesus would not only stay, he would feed them. The guest they invited to their table would become their host.

“When [Jesus] was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” They recognized him as the one they had left for dead in Jerusalem. They recognized him as the one who had accompanied them on the road to Emmaus. They recognized him as the one they had hoped he would be.

Jesus wasn’t just giving them bread, he was giving them back themselves. This was their restoration. When Jesus broke the bread something in them broke open. With that breaking open their lives were being put back together. So it is for us as well. We’ve all had times when out lives were broken open in ways we could never imagine or have done for ourselves.

Despite how it feels, our brokenness is not an ending. There is more to it than we often see or know. It is not just brokenness, a shattering, it is a breaking open to new life, to new seeing, to new recognition, to community, welcome, hospitality, and love. Isn’t that why we gather around the table every Sunday? Isn’t that our unspoken desire for the meals we share with each other?

Jesus fed them not just with bread but with himself: with his body, his life, his love, his compassion, his strength, his forgiveness, his hope, with all that he is and all that he has.

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