A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Reflections on Emmaus

Fr Kevin Head sm

We lament the state the world is in, understandably. There is so much sadness. So many people suffering as victims – of floods, fires, road accidents; or of mental, physical and sexual violation, hunger and malnutrition, homelessness; of slavery, sex trafficking, environmental destruction … the list of human misfortune and exploitation makes for truly sad reading. The world is a mess. And yet …

The Lord stays with us, no matter how messy our world is.

And, in fact, our world is not unlike that in which the earliest members of our Church found themselves. Just as nowadays, there were people who lived desperate lives in the depths of poverty and others who were abominably rich. Slavery, sexual exploitation, abuse of children and people dying of hunger were commonplace then, too. While many starved, the rich indulged in gluttony and drunkenness. And writing in the 300s, St Jerome tells of a woman married to her 23rd husband; and she was her husband’s 21st wife!

The Gospel of Luke was written in Antioch, Syria, 50 years or so after Jesus died and rose from the dead. The Church was very fragile. It was under pressure from the Syrian government and from the Jewish leaders. The request of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, “stay with us Lord, it is almost dark” (Luke 24:29), was an anxious prayer, from the heart of the young Church, in its struggle against the forces marshalled against it.

How could the Lord be with the Church in such a dreadful world, and in the ghastly situation in which the Church found itself? How can the Lord be with us in the chaotic world in which we live?

In his account of the journey to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), the Gospel writer shows how Jesus stays with us, with the Church. Luke encourages us to meet the Lord in his Word and Sacrament. He describes the meal at Emmaus in the same way as he describes the feeding of the five thousand (Luke 9:12-17) and the Last Supper (Luke 22:17-20). Jesus blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his friends.

On the road to Emmaus

We know we won’t find the Lord in being self-indulgent. Nor will we find him in having 21 wives or 23 husbands!

Rather, we find him by living according to his teachings and values. Many people find him in feeding the hungry, in visiting the prisoners and the sick, in comforting those who mourn, and in praying together.

And the risen Lord works in and through such wonderful people who give their time, talent and effort in the Society of St Vincent de Paul, in the hospice movement, hospital chaplaincy, the Legion of Mary, in the Apostleship of the Sea, and visiting those in prison. He works in those who minister in various ways -- as ministers of the Eucharist, readers, sacristans, cleaners, flower arrangers, collection counters, finance committee and parish council members, and musicians in churches throughout the land.

And we find him, the Lord who stays with us, in the Word of Scripture proclaimed, in the Eucharist and in the other Sacraments. Each time that we attend Mass, Jesus blesses the bread, breaks it, and gives himself to us, his friends. The risen Lord stays with us … now and always. Happy Easter!   

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