Third Sunday of Easter

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

I like to ask how far people have travelled from their place of origin. We are a society in constant motion. True locals are few who are still right where they’re from originally. Then there are those constantly on the move, maybe for work, maybe for fun, maybe to get away from the law. While there are those who have absolutely zero desire to travel anywhere except maybe between the couch and the fridge.

We most frequently associate the idea of travel with leisure. But among us there are some who hit the road primarily to get away from suffering and devastation, who have no desire to return to wherever they’ve been, and who want only to give their children and themselves a better life and a better future. Whatever our reason for relocating, we also have a sense to know when we’ve arrived, when we’ve come home. And until that unsettled feeling fades, we will be driven by the urge to keep moving.

The two disciples in today’s gospel took to the road most likely in response to suffering and devastation. They were followers of Jesus probably from Galilee. One of them was Clopas, mentioned nowhere else in scripture. The other is unidentified. And while Jerusalem was a dream destination for every observant Jew, they couldn’t get away from there fast enough. Jerusalem was all of a sudden a place that repulsed them. They had just stared darkness and danger in the face. And Jesus their Teacher had just met a horrible end. Where in any of this was God to be found? They had pinned their hopes of liberation from oppression and a chance at a new life on this man Jesus as many throughout the country had done. He was a prophet mighty in deed and word. It didn’t make sense. His hands healed and fed and welcomed. His loving gaze brought peace of mind and forgiveness of sins. Now he was gone. “Where is God?,” they asked. And they struggled in their pain, Jesus found them and quietly walked alongside them.

Easily we imagine God to be in our midst when we sing and pray in church, or when we listen to God’s Word proclaimed and preached. We have little trouble trusting God’s presence when we kneel down to pray before bed, or when we bow our heads in thanksgiving before meals. But like the disciples in today’s gospel, even in the midst of painful questions, even along the dustiest and most deserted of roads, God finds us and quietly walks alongside us. The church instructs us to set aside the first day of the week to worship God in sacred assembly. But this isn’t meant to keep God from being part of our lives the rest of the week. God finds us and quietly walks alongside us even when we are unaware of it, or when we refuse to believe it, or when we want no part of it.

As they walked that dusty road to Emmaus, the disciples, devastated, grieving, and numb, failed to see Jesus walking with them. Pain and anxiety can cloud our minds and hearts so even God can do nothing but wait. But God wants to share a vision for all creation with us, an eternal plan for the human family. God will even seek us out along the journey still tangled in our cares and concerns. God does not turn a deaf ear when we bring our hurts, our frustrations, and our pain to prayer. Instead, God beckons us to let go of our limited understanding. When Jesus spoke to them on the road, he shared with them wisdom from God’s own heart. He recalled the sacred stories of Israel and pointed out the many signs of God’s presence and wonderful action in their history. He took their hurts, their frustrations, their pain, and revealed to them a new perspective extending far beyond their limited vision. Later that evening, they recalled how their hearts burned with fire as he opened the scriptures to them. Something similar happens when we are willing to encounter God on the journey, and call to mind God’s wonders in our lives. The fears and doubts and miseries that weigh on us are obstacles only if we close our hearts to what God has to say. And believe me, God has something to say.

Then they invited him to stay with them. Now only after their encounter with Jesus on the journey did they recognize Him in the breaking of bread. If their hearts had been closed as he spoke, the meal they shared after would have been no different from any other meal. I believe that if I recognize Jesus each day on the road of life and a fire is ignited in me when God’s Word is proclaimed and preached, the Eucharist will never ever be ordinary or routine. And the hurts, frustrations, and pain I must carry are no longer too burdensome.

The disciple in the story who has no name is us. Clopas is whoever accompanies us knowing and sharing our pain but with no adequate answers to offer. It’s not their fault. At least they stay with us. And Jesus finds us and walks quietly alongside us on the road of life, speaking, teaching, revealing God’s mysteries in conversation with those we love, in sacred scripture we read or hear proclaimed and preached, in inspiration that comes to us when we pour out our hearts to God in prayer and listen to what God has to say. We will need to pay careful attention or we miss Jesus walking quietly alongside us, and we miss the many moments of grace Jesus offers us each day. Then perhaps we might be better disposed to recognize him in the breaking of bread.

But the story does not end there. The disciples return to Jerusalem, that place of suffering and devastation. There their Lord and Master met a violent end, their lives upended, their hopes reduced to dust. They share good news, and the same good news is shared with them. When we encounter the risen Jesus on the way, we must return to our Jerusalem to proclaim good news and have good news proclaimed to us.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Rolo B Castillo © 2023