The Emmaus story is so important for us to meditate on.
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, or rather, 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 and disappointment.
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 a while. He listened to them he tried to figure out where they were,
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 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”
He spoke only when they had finished. 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 on 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.
They listened attentively to Jesus and they were now able to understand.
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 seek more understanding.
Faith in not a one way street it demands a living response.
“Stay with us” they asked him.
They wanted more.
Jesus was happy to remain with them.
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 His respect ?
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 walking away, no longer in retreat
Rather they shared their experience of the Lord with anyone who would listen.
What a beautiful passage in God’s word and today how important it is for us all to mediate on it and follow Jesus’ example.
A couple years 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, just like the disciples in the story.
Remember Jesus did not just let them walk. He intervened. 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. Or we say to ourselves that’s none of my business.
We don’t seem to notice or even give an indication that we care when someone is walking away from the Church.
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.
Jesus didn’t appear to the disciples and start yelling at them or say something like…
It’s a sin to walk away from the community it’s a sin to miss Mass.
He loved them where they were and brought them to more.
Holy ones… there a so many people in our parish who no longer practice their faith.
That’s why we have 11,000 on the books and 2100 attending mass every Sunday.
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?
How have Walked with them like Jesus walked with the disciples?
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 every one who says Jesus is Lord
Lots to think about
Lots to pray about
There is so much to be done
One thing is certain love demands it a loving response.