There are whispers that the first wave of COVID-19 is ebbing, but masks are mandated and social distancing remains the norm. Encounters between friends have become virtual; birthday trains and socially distanced visits have become accepted practice. We are seeing the world through new lenses, measuring the days by hours inching by rather than by celebrating achievements, success, possibilities. That awkward in-between space is staying with us. The Gospel today mirrors that awkward space with a message both deep and demanding.
Luke 24 ventures from Jerusalem to the dusty road to Emmaus. And there, caught between the story of the crucifixion of Jesus and the empty tomb, the disciples are traveling in shocked incredulity. Circumstances are different, but the reality of confusion, uncertainty and ambiguity parallels what we are living through now. Jesus met those disciples on the road to Emmaus; he journeyed with them and now he journeys with us. Just as the disciples did not quite realize his Presence, it is a challenge for us to realize, to grasp that God is with us in this.
But the lessons are there for us, just as they were for the disciples. Questioning, grieving, wondering and wanting are human needs and characteristics that Jesus welcomes. All our grief and concerns, questions and worries are also welcomed by Jesus. It is ours to open the conversation, lay out the story, share our persepctives. This is a time that can be about deepening, developing, even nurturing a relationship through the simplicity of conversation, the exchange of ideas.
And then there is the art of listening, waiting. Jesus spoke with clarity, charisma and conviction. He engaged fully with his audience, earned their interest, their welcome and their desire to hear more. But they were listening. It is ours to listen as well, to take the time, find the space of a dusty road in the urgency of isolation so that his voice can echo, resonate, in heart and soul. In this place, in our time, a quiet moment can be elusive. But the conversation might be more than worth it.
Finally, there is the episode that infuses the word “Emmaus” with the allure of encounter. it explodes in the middle of the story and changes everything. Recognizing who Jesus is in the breaking of the bread is a moment of revelation, of truth. It is knowing for a split second not only who He is, but who each of them are. That same revelation, that sense of clarity, awaits each of us. The timing may be different, but the idea of seeing things more clearly after prayer or conversations with Jesus is the same. Recognition of Jesus cannot come without a clearer perception of self. Emmaus is all about beginning and believing.
We are here, at the beginning of something entirely new. Emmaus is the story that reminds us we are not alone in this; Jesus is here, walking with us through the most challenging hours, ready to listen and ready to be heard, to be seen.