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The Road To Emmaus

January 16, 2022 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

The road that stretched from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus, as Luke informs us (Luke 24:13-35), was about seven miles (60 estadia). What transpired in the story of the “Road to Emmaus,” however, has a far richer meaning than the route on which two people, and then a third, traveled. It means far more than the geographical distance between two points or the terra firma that underlies our feet. This “road,” more significantly, is the road to salvation. Moreover, it is the road on which we should all be traveling.
It was Easter Sunday, the third day since Christ had been crucified. Two travelers, who began their walk toward Emmaus, were deeply saddened by His death. They were mourning what they regarded as the permanent loss of “a mighty prophet.” While they were talking about this, “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.” He did not, however, allow the two travelers to recognize Him.
Christ knew the source of their bereavement, but understanding the therapeutic value associated with expressing one’s grief, He let them speak. In his Life of Christ, Fulton J. Sheen expresses his sympathy for the two travelers when he writes: “A sorrowful heart is best consoled when it relieves itself.” Here the Venerable Bishop may have been echoing the words of Shakespeare: “Give sorrow words; the grief that cannot speak whispers the o’er fraught heart and bids it break” (Macbeth).
After they explained to Jesus the source of their grief, He admonished them, saying, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Are we not, all of us, foolish and slow of heart? The travelers, as well as the apostles, were not prepared to believe in the Resurrection. They had resisted the evidence provided by the women who had reported that Christ no longer occupied the tomb in which He had been placed. Nor did they accept the prophecies written in the Old Testament concerning the Messias’ Resurrection.
Christ’s activities at the table strongly parallel the Last Supper. In both instances Christ looked up to Heaven, blessed and broke bread which He then gave to His disciples to eat. The Resurrected Christ had revealed Himself in a decisive and irresistible way.
When they drew near to Emmaus, Christ appeared to be going farther. His two companions, however, pleaded with Him to “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” And so, Christ complied and dined with them. At table, He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to His companions. At this point their “eyes were opened,” They recognized Him, not as a prophet, but as their Savior. Then, Christ vanished from their sight. The two postponed their journey to Emmaus and rushed back to Jerusalem to inform the eleven apostles of what had happened.
There is much to be absorbed from Luke’s account. The divinity of Christ had to be revealed to the travelers. They did not recognize Him on their own. Hence the importance of Revelation. Reflecting on listening to Christ discussing the Scriptures with them, they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?”
They had been traveling, without realizing it, on a road to a better world. Reading the Old Testament and heeding what the prophets said should not only be informative, but should also warm the heart. Then there is the importance of hospitality, the significance of the Eucharist, and the urgency of missionary work. And the reassurance that God is with us.
The title of Robert Cardinal Sarah’s excellent book, The Day Is Now Far Spent (2019), is taken from Luke 24:29 but has a different application. It is not so much an invitation to Christ to stay with us for supper, but a prophetic cry as the light is fading in a world that seemingly has lost its way. In Cardinal Sarah’s words, “The Church is dying because her pastors are afraid to speak in all truth and clarity. We are afraid of the media, afraid of public opinion, afraid of our own brethren” (p. 13).
Whether we realize it or not, we are all on a road. But what is the nature of that road and where is it taking us? The Road to Emmaus is a symbol of our journey of faith. It is not a road that leads us to the Big Apple, to Las Vegas, or even to the Eternal City, but to Heaven. It is paved with faith and lighted by love. The two who set out for Emmaus are our travel guides. They are advising us to be ready at times to abandon our travel expectations so that we can travel on a better route. Our destinations must occasionally surrender to our destiny.

  • + + (Dr. Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus, St. Jerome’s University, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College. He is a regular columnist for St. Austin Review and is the author of 39 books. He is a former corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy of Life. Some of his latest books, The 12 Supporting Pillars of the Culture of Life and Why They Are Crumbling, and Glimmers of Hope in a Darkening World, are posted on amazon.com. He and his wife, Mary, have 5 children and 13 grandchildren. Restoring Philosophy and Returning to Common Sense is now available on amazon.com.)
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