Third Sunday in Easter A 2011

If you look for the village of Emmaus on a map, you will probably be disappointed because the biblical Emmaus will not be listed.  Several towns claim to be the authentic village of Emmaus, but scholars have taken each claim to task.  Outside of the New Testament, there is no record of a town named Emmaus that close to Jerusalem.  So why does Luke recount the name of the village?  Perhaps, Emmaus is not supposed to be the name of any town.  We could substitute Evansville or Walsh or Sparta or Washington D.C. or Rome or Lourdes for the name Emmaus.  Each of us are on a journey and this journey is often disheartening. 

Imagine, you see Cleopas walking with his wife away from Jerusalem; they are downcast since they left their families, friends, jobs, and possessions to follow Jesus.  They saw him hang upon the cross and die.  Now they were returning home; they were thinking to themselves how foolish they had been.  Jesus was going to be the savior of Israel; he the Messiah would liberate his people from the Romans who occupied their country.  It was all over.  Perhaps they stayed by the cross just to see Jesus manifest his power there and convince all people that he was God.  But Jesus didn’t; rather, the breathed out his spirit and all that remained was his dead, lifeless, body.

Along the way comes this stranger who catches up to them.  After all, they were depressed and in no hurry to return to the scoffs of their former friends and family.  Jesus slows down and begins to speak with them but they cannot recognize him.  Sometimes in our own sorrow and grief we cannot recognize the people we love are there next to us.  After expressing disappointment, Jesus begins to teach them the scriptures.  Finally, as they were stopping for the evening, they begged this stranger to join them.

It was when Jesus took the bread that they realized who he was.  Jesus was gone, then he appears, and then he immediately departs.  Amazed and on fire, they had to return to share this news with others.  They left the safety of their lodging to travel as darkness approached.  It was risky to travel then but the news was so important that danger could not detain them. 

Today we hear the word of God and celebrate the breaking of bread.  Like these two, we are sent forth to share the wondrous deeds of God with others.  Each of us are walking and awaiting that encounter with Jesus; perhaps he is right beside us but like these disciples, we cannot see.

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