The Emmaus story is so important for us to meditate on.
It is filled with details and the narrative or story draws us in…
Let's look a the key components of the story.
First of all it is important to note that the Disciples were headed away from Jerusalem when Jesus met them
When Jesus sought them out.
That's important to remember
Jesus sought them out.
They had left the community
They were walking away
They were discouraged and questioning filled with doubt
Even the news from the Women in their group that Jesus had risen from the dead
did not restore their faith.
At that moment in their lives it was easier for them to doubt than believe
Next the account says that Jesus walked with them for a while.
He listened to them
he tried to figure out where they where
what they were thinking what they were feeling
what they were afraid of.
He didn't just begin telling them how they were wrong.
Only when he had heard them speak from their hearts did he intervene.
Only when he knew what was on their mind did
he enter into dialog with them.
In other words he respected them and their doubt.
Then with a question,
not with an affirmation
he entered into their world and their experience.
By asking them what they were talking about.
He listened attentively as they explained
"The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene."
Only when they had finished did he speak
(I'll be honest the phrase" O how you foolish are"
put me off for a while… as I prepared my homily.)
I'm not sure you enter into dialog with someone by telling them that they are foolish they are.
In a commentary I read it explained that when Jesus spoke those words to the disciples o the road they probably heard something like "don't you get it?"
From the story it is clear that they were not offended.
They did not distance themselves from him but remained attentive.
Then slowly but surely he helped them understand the teaching of the prophets.
He helped them see that it had indeed been foretold
that the Messiah would have to suffer and die to enter into His glory.
For so long the Israelites had understood that the Messiah would be a triumphant warrior king and it was just so hard for even Jesus' closest disciples to overcome that error even after they had been with him for so long.
They listened attentively and they were now able to understand
It was finally easier for them to believe then to persist in their doubt and fear
When the road split he pretended to go on…
in other words he did not force himself on them.
It was now time for them to take a step
It was time for them to make a move to seek more understanding
Faith is not a one way street it demands a living response.
"Stay with us" they asked him
They wanted more.
Jesus was happy to respond.
And then at the table when he broke bread
they recognized him
And he vanished….
His work was complete
Their faith was restored.
Who knows how many disciples Jesus visited that day
How many experienced
His concern and
Who knows how many recognized him in the breaking of the bread.
The disciples of Emmaus immediately returned to Jerusalem
They immediately returned to community to the Church
They were no longer quiet
No longer afraid
No longer in retreat
Rather they shared their experience of the Lord with anyone who would listen
What a beautiful story
What a well written narrative
And today how important it is, urgent even, it is for us all to mediate on it
And follow it's example
Not to long ago a study was released by the "Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life" stated that
"No other major faith in the U.S. has experienced greater net losses over the last few decades as a result of changes in religious affiliation than the Catholic Church,"
While The Church is still growing in the United States it is only because the significant number of "cradle Catholics" who leave are being replaced by Hispanic Immigrants.
The findings of this reputable study should give us all pause
They should challenge us
They should help understand how pertinent the Emmaus story really is for our contemporary experience.
For the study proves that people "our brothers and sisters" are walking away from the church away from Jerusalem, if you will
maybe just like the disciples in the story
Jesus did not let them walk
He respected them and reached out to them
He showed them how important they were to Him
He spent time with them.
Sadly, so sadly, sometimes, many times we don't even seem to notice when someone no longer practices their faith.
We don't seem to notice or even give an indication that we care when someone is walking away.
Frequently there isn't any response from us at all
Not even a goodbye
Not even we'll miss you
And in those rare moments when we do respond quite frequently we respond poorly.
We don't listen we just we judge.
We start talking before we even understand what has happened what the problem is.
Jesus didn't appear to the disciples and say something like…
"it's a sin to miss Mass"
"you are not a good parent because you don't bring your kids to Mass or religious instruction."
He loved them where they were and brought them to more.
And once they understood they were so quick to return and to share their joy and their experience of God's love
Holy ones… there a so many people on our campus who no longer practice their faith or who have never really been properly catechized.
In most cases they don't come to Mass simply because they have fallen out of the habit of doing so.
Or have no one to come with.
Their failure to attend Mass is not a rejection of God but maybe even a simple misunderstanding.
They are not bad people
There are so many people who no longer appear in our pews
What are we doing about it?
What have we really done?
How have we reached out?
How have we loved them
Cared for them ?
Listened to them?
Calmed their fears
Walk with them?
Someone once said that the Catholic understanding and practice of evangelization is printing the parish or campus ministry phone number in the bulletin and waiting for the phone to ring.
Sadly I fear that is often also our response to our brothers and sisters
Our dear brothers and sisters who have walked away from the Church
for whatever reason.
Somehow we just expect them to find their way home and we are disappointed in them when they don't.
Our Emmaus response to those who leave, to those who walk away is not the only the responsibility of the priest or the staff of the parish.
Yes we should be willing to help and we are
but this important task
has to be shared by very one who says Jesus is Lord
Lots to think about
Lots to pray about
So much to be done
Love demands it
(Sorry it's a long one)