Monday, May 02, 2011
“They told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:35)
May 8, 2011
Third Sunday of Easter
Luke 24:13-35 Reading Here
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Only a mile from home, but it seemed so very far. Could I make it? I’d have to. No passing cars this early in the morning were apt to pick up a struggling, staggering hitch-hiker. Not on this dark, deserted country road.
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Springtime nearly ten years ago in rural upstate New York: dew cool mornings, fragrant fresh-turned earth, bird calls coming to dawn, deer grazing in silhouette. Ah, walking a country road at 5 AM on such a morning was near, I imagined, to walking close to heaven. But my feet reminded me that heaven was yet far off.
Long an early riser, I mean really early – like 4 AM – I’d taken to brisk morning walks the previous autumn. Come winter, though, snow and ice trapped me indoors, keeping me from the waiting countryside. During the long winter siege, I prepared for spring by purchasing a new pair of walking shoes, sturdy, tie-up things that, I was sure, could only enhance my dawn communion with the waking earth.
Finally, with snow gone, ice melted and lunar reckoning proclaiming it spring, I laced on the new shoes for my first 5 AM jaunt in months. Anxious to experience earth’s fragrance, I chose a two-mile route that paralleled a tractor-churned field newly prepared for planting. Such fragrance, that rich earth!
The first half-mile was just what I’d been yearning for. By the second half-mile, though, I was less recollected as the beauty of nature was increasingly preempted by sore feet, the friction at my heels beginning to chew them up. At the one mile mark, turn-around point, I paused at the still dark roadside to tighten the laces on the shoes, thinking that might ease the agony a bit. And it did, sort of, as I began the mile walk home – less a walk, really, more a forward staggering. While I prayed for a passing motorist to take pity on my condition, I knew, were I that motorist, I’d not have offered a ride to such an early morning seeming drunkard!
In the end, I survived the walk home, but all appreciation of Mother Nature had long disappeared by the one mile mark. Grit and prayer marked the last mile, thoughts of Jesus on the Via Dolorosa foremost in my mind. When, finally, arriving home, I unlaced the shoes from my throbbing feet, I saw that friction had peeled away the skin from both heels and bloodied my socks. For nearly a month, I could only wear open-heeled sandals. The new walking shoes were consigned to a local clothing donation bin.
Journeys are challenging and sometimes even painful ventures and the more significant the journey, the more challenging and painful it’s apt to be. Thus it was for me on that spring morning. Thus it was for two disciples of Jesus also on a journey.
The gospel passage we hear today is the story of the events that transpired on the seven-mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The two disciples were, no doubt, puzzled and despondent over recent happenings – Jesus’ betrayal by one of his own, the mock trial, the beatings, then death by crucifixion. These two travelers did not yet know of their master’s resurrection, only that the dreams he had inspired within them were now as dead as they believed him to be. It was to be a long, painful journey, those seven miles to Emmaus.
Mid-trip, though, a seeming stranger joined the two, asking to accompany them. And the gospel story then relates the wondrous revelation that follows – Jesus had truly risen from the dead, just as he’d promised. And proof of the revelation was confirmed when, sitting down to a meal with them, Jesus broke bread and fed them. Then they knew. Then they believed. St. Luke concludes the story with the simple statement, “They told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:35)
Indeed, the road to Emmaus is the road to belief. And it’s a road we all must walk, not for two miles or, like the disciples, even seven miles. We must walk it a lifetime of miles. Our feet will get sore, our spirits will sag, but somewhere along the road, a stranger will ask to accompany us, and if our hearts and minds will allow it, that stranger will emerge as a God-sent companion, Jesus in disguise, who will offer to feed our spirits, nourish our hearts and strengthen our faith.
Yes, the road to Emmaus is the road to belief. And it’s a road we all must walk. In fact, we’re on that road right now, evidenced by the daily challenges that cause us to send heavenward prayerful utterances. Like the nurse I passed at end-of-shift recently, muttering audibly to herself on the way to her car in the parking garage: “Jesus, get me out of here! I just want to go home, kick off these shoes and rest my weary feet. Dear God, it’s been a hard night!”
It’s been a hard night for all of us, I’m guessing. Our feet are tired, perhaps even blistered. Yet, while our feet demand our attention, do we happen to notice the stranger who joins us on the journey? The stranger who, even for a moment, distracts us from our feet? The stranger who somehow and simply gives us the strength to go on? One more step, one more mile?
This stranger is surely he who joined the two disciples on the road linking Jerusalem and Emmaus. This stranger is surely he who broke bread and fed the disciples. This stranger is Jesus walking with us.
When the disciples discovered the identity of the stranger on the road with them, they were anxious to share the news with others. St. Luke writes, “They told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:35) We too must tell the story, sharing with others the joyful news that he is with us on the road.