Where is Emmaus? Rather precise description of St Luke hasn’t helped to pinpoint the place on the map of the Holy Land. In fact a number of towns claim to be the biblical Emmaus. It looks as if God allowed the place to disappear, despite it being the location of the second Eucharist celebrated by Jesus. Does it mean that the place has vanished off the face of the earth then? Not really. Emmaus is everywhere where we think we could be better off than where we are at the moment. For the people I mentioned at the beginning New Zealand has become a modern version of Emmaus. Any crisis we face, any situation which reveals our fragility and vulnerability triggers in us a powerful instinct of self-preservation which begins searching for a safe haven where we can escape to, our own Emmaus.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! The current coronavirus crisis is not the first and not the last crisis the humankind has faced. Many people, on different levels, are working hard to address it right now. I have confidence in God that it will be solved. However overcoming this crisis will not eradicate many other crises which individuals and communities have been experiencing and will be experiencing. Such eradication hasn’t been promised by God. What God has promised, and has fulfilled, is ‘the resurrection of the Christ.’
Why did Cleopas and his companion were devastated? Because they placed their hope in Christ. They were convinced that Christ brought divine into human. They were convinced that by following Christ they were to participate in it. Good Friday had crushed it all, at least in their heads. The vivid images of Jesus’ crucifixion, an possibility of them ending the same way, had created a bubble in which they breathed hopelessness, fear, despair and sadness. We meet them today walking in such a bubble. We may want to shout at the top of our lungs: ‘Disciples of Jesus what are you doing?!!! It is Easter Sunday!!! The Lord has truly risen!!! There is the Kingdom of God growing in this world!!! You can be part of the Kingdom!!! The Risen Lord is with you!!!’
My Dear Friends! If you feel shouting these messages to Cleopas and his companion think of situations when you felt your world was collapsing, think about the moments when you thought that God had abandoned you. Maybe you didn’t feel like praying then. Maybe coming to Mass felt like wasting time. Maybe your Bible looked to you like unnecessary requisite. It is important to acknowledge such feelings. Don’t deny them. However this time let me shout some messages for you: ‘Disciples of Jesus!!! It is Easter Sunday!!! Can’t you see Jesus walking by you side?!!! These feelings, these sentiments it is him hitting the bubble you have created around yourselves!!!’
My Dear Emmaus Searchers! When prayer and the Bible are hard and dry it is a sign that Jesus is speaking to you at last, not just you speaking some captivating thoughts in your head. Let him speak to you. He will make ‘your hearts burn within you’ like the bush which Moses saw once in the desert. It is the purifying fire for eternity which Jesus desired to kindle on earth and which he did ignite by his redeeming death and Resurrection.
When the Eucharist is like endless boredom it is a sign that Jesus is breaking bread for you, not just you looking for some emotional entertainment. He, the Risen Lord, wants you to recognise him. St Augustin when speaking to newly baptised said: ‘Recognise in the bread what hung on the cross; in the cup what flowed from his side.’ Therefore our ultimate Emmaus is not the place. It is the Risen Lord Jesus Christ who ‘walks by our side’ fulfilling his promise to be ‘with us until the end of time.’ He is not taking us away from our crises, because he didn’t take himself away from the great crisis of the crucifixion either. However he reinstates us to our calling and dignity of his disciples who by sharing in his passion enter his Resurrection for the glory of his Father in heaven and to be witnesses to the new heaven and new earth to people on earth.