The Gospel for this Sunday tells the story of the disciples walking along the road to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday. They are still heartbroken because of the death of Jesus on Good Friday, and now have heard ridiculous rumors that Mary Magdalene has reported that she has seen Jesus, and that He is alive. They thought that their world had been shattered on Friday, but this new information that Jesus is alive is even more disturbing. What does it mean?
At some point in our own lives, reality will cease to make sense to us. There is a line from the song, The Heart of the Matter, by Don Henley (of the Eagles), in which he is addressing his divorce. He sings, “Everything I thought I knew, I have to learn again.” Often it will be a tragedy, a betrayal, a serious and chronic illness or condition, or some other awful event that shatters our reality. It can also be something wonderful like the birth of our first child or moving to a strange and foreign country. But suddenly everything we thought we knew is wrong.
As the two disciples walk along, someone joins them. It is Jesus, though they do not recognize Him (that seemed to be a common experience to those who meet Him in His Risen form). They tell Him about what has happened and are obviously quite distressed. He then shares with them the Scripture passages that show that the Messiah had to die.
When we are going through difficult times, and times when nothing makes sense, we may fail to recognize that Jesus is with us in the messiness of our lives. He may seem far away, or even absent. But He is with us, offering us support and guidance. We have to learn how to open ourselves to Christ’s presence in our lives and learn to trust that He will never leave us alone. Jesus’ final words in Matthew’s Gospel are, “Know that I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
When they reach Emmaus, the two invite Jesus (whom they still do not recognize) to have dinner with them. (Blessing our food before we eat is a way of inviting Christ to be part of our meals, whether we eat alone or with family.) He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples. They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. And then He vanished. Why did He vanish? Because they now knew He was with them in the Eucharist and always would be.
Life gets scary and hard sometimes. Sometimes nothing makes sense, and we feel incredibly lost. Even in those times, Jesus is with us. We seek to learn how to recognize His presence so that we can be confident and safe as we walk through the “valley of darkness.”
–Fr. Mike Comer