Emmaus, enthusiasm and encounter

Today’s readings contrast an energetic and uncertain church.  The energy is found in the Acts of The Apostles with all that enthusiasm around sharing the word, confessing to being “witnesses” and inviting others to join the journey of faith – “what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit”.  Peter’s letter continues this line of encouragement and invitation.  There is something very special and energising happening here.  It’s church at its vibrant best when there’s a sense of purpose and energy around preaching, teaching, encouraging and inviting others to a fuller understanding of faith.

Contrast this with the beginning steps of the two men on the road to Emmaus.  That same Sunday as he had risen – that same Sunday some women from their group had “astounded them” with the news of his rising, these men failed to grasp the reality of the moment and went walking to get away from it all. 

The good thing was they talked.  Talking to others in times of confusion and grief is widely recognised as a crucial step on the road to acceptance and peace of mind.  Though widely accepted, the great pity is many of us opt for silence.  We go into ourselves, mourn apart and put on a front when deep inside we are crumbling.  These men then were doing the right thing – walking, remembering, talking – grieving.  Even when he walked by their side, recognition did not happen and instead of joy at seeing him, they stopped short, “their faces downcast”. The question he asked them was important – one of those open-ended questions that did not allow for a “yes” or “no” answer – “What matters”, he asked “are you discussing as you walk along?”

They had a choice then.  It’s likely the last thing they wanted was to have to share the road with a stranger, not least someone who seemed so removed from the reality of their pain.  He didn’t seem to know what they were talking about when the explained the things that had been happening.  How easily they could have dismissed him then – “have a good evening”, they might have said, “we won’t be keeping you”.  That’s not what happened.  Were they prepared to be called “foolish”?  Hardly, that could have been justifiably interpreted as adding insult to injury.

Yet maybe we need to be foolish – to admit our being out of our depth in the face of trying to understand something that has totally overwhelmed us.  Maybe we need to be willing to listen as well as talk, slow down as well as walk and allow His presence to enlighten us.  It may not be easy for us to do this but, chances are, it’s necessary.  Calls for humility and trust.

He began to mention names that were familiar to them, stories that they’d known form their youth and to stir up in them a desire for more.  His faked intention to leave them when they reached their destination was not an option for either of them – “It’s nearly evening”, they said, “come in and stay with us”.

How joyous that invitation must have been for Jesus.  To be asked to “stay with us” – be part of our gathering and our search.  Happily he joined them, sat with them and broke the bread of life for them.  Only then did recognition take place.

That’s where we’re at right now.  Asking him not to leave us and to nourish us for without the bread and word broken, recognition is not possible.

Let our hearts burn within us  .…  that’s the enthusiasm of the early church – OUR church.

"What matters are YOU discussing?"

The Lord seeks to enter our journey and our conversation ....

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