The Road to Emmaus


I was walking out of a drug store recently, when a person who was crossing the same threshold stopped and looked at me.  I said hello and he asked if I knew him because he had a belief that he knew me.  I wasn’t sure and so I said, “I don’t think so.”  He replied, “Sacred Heart, nine o’clock Mass.” With a somewhat dumbfounded look, I said, “I did say the nice o’clock mass last Sunday.”  “My wife and I moved here from California, and we go to your church.  We loved your homily.” “Thank you very much.”  Then I slipped back into one of those Southern phrases I am fond of using, “Y’all come back, ya hear!”

It is the first day and all of the disciples are in a quandary trying to figure out what has happened to Christ’s body and where has it been taken.  There was this uncertainty of the meaning of the phrase, “They still did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” (John 20: 9)  It wasn’t by accident that Jesus catches up with the two travelers and joins them.  John 9 makes it easier to understand the caustic remark that Cleopas makes to Jesus, hidden from their sight, about all the events that have taken place in regards to Jesus, his capture, trial, beating, carrying his cross to Golgatha, being nailed to the cross, suffering and dying, and then being buried.  Now it is the first day of the week, when John 9 is fulfilled, and they are downcast because reports are that His body has been taken.

Jesus still not being recognized by them is quick to find fault with them in regards to “Was it necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then Jesus breaks open scripture from Moses, and the prophets and all that applies to him in scripture.

As they are drawing close to Emmaus, it appears that the stranger is going on, but the two disciples encourage this stranger to “stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”  Jesus joins them for dinner and while at table, “he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.”  Their eyes were open and they recognized him, but Jesus disappears.  They see the stranger as the Christ, the one who broke the bread at the dinner of the washing of their feet.  Now they see and understand all that Christ means as they come out of their darkness into His light.  Like Mary in the tomb when Christ calls Mary by name, their eyes are opened by something familiar to them, the breaking of the bread.

How often do we recognize the Christ in us by something familiar?  The man at the pharmacy could not initially put his finger on it, but then he associated me with Sacred Heart, a specific time, and he understood why he thought he knew me.

How often does familiarity trigger knowledge and understanding in us because we understand something we are familiar with?  The invitation of the two disciples extended to Christ opens to them this avenue that will soon open them to what they are seeking “the hope that he would be the one to redeem Israel, this one, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people…”

If we permit our emotions to close down our avenues of seeking, then we are frustrated and feel abandoned.  Even though they are downcast, dinner purchases for them time.  Time opens the avenues for them and us to recognize that which is familiar.

In Jesus through Mary,
Father Denis Ryan, C.Ss.R.
Redemptorist Missionary of the Denver Province

Fr. Ryan is a Redemptorists priest assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Seattle.