In the story of the journey to Emmaus we encounter two despondent disciples, all hope gone, aimlessly wandering the road, moving as far from the source of their pain as their weary legs would carry them. We encounter too the one who walks with them, gently present to their pain, the one who having met them where they were at, brings the Word of God to bear on their situation, leading them gradually to FAITH which makes it possible for them to recognise Him in the Breaking of Bread.

What this Gospel passage does is to take us on a journey from the darkness of unbelief and incomprehension of God’s ways to the light of faith and to joy in the Risen Lord, a joy to be shared with all the people.

The story of Emmaus shows the disciples profoundly disheartened by the events of the Passion and abandoning Jerusalem the place of their dead dreams. There was in fact no reason for their discouragement. JESUS WAS WITH THEM. But they were unable to recognise him. These two disciples had their minds still fixed on “Jesus the Nazarene, the one who would save them from their Roman occupiers. Jesus had in fact prophesised his resurrection and it had been foretold in Scripture that the Christ should suffer to redeem his people but focused only on their own vision of an earthly liberator they couldn’t go beyond their limited perspective. Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be because he didn’t meet their immediate needs and expectations they had of Him. They lost all hope because they had no faith. They didn’t believe that Jesus had risen and without faith in the resurrection every thing is meaningless.

Does not this happen to us too? Are there not times when we too become so engrossed in our daily problems that we cannot see a bigger picture or a different solution to the one we envisage? We too can lose faith. We too can fail to see that there is no need for discouragement. Jesus is risen. He is with us.
But thank God the story does not end there. The Risen Jesus is willing to seek out the lost. He joins them and us on the road. He is walking with them but because they don’t believe he is Risen, there is no possibility of their recognising Him. The Risen Jesus can only be encountered through faith. His physical presence is not enough. He cannot be recognised with our physical senses.

He walks with them and joins in their conversation. Is it here that the first movement of grace begins? in an openness to an outsider, a third party, a different viewpoint to our own ?
Jesus joins the disciples and us not because we are good or faithful. The disciples had neither trusted him nor stood by him. He joins them precisely because they are weak and confused, afraid and angry, despondent, rudderless.
Jesus joins his disciples and walks with them at their pace and in their direction. They are heading away from Jerusalem going towards Emmaus. Now Jesus actually wants them in Jerusalem with the others, ready for the mission he is going to entrust to them but he does not stop them or try to turn them round. They are not yet ready to go back. When they are ready they will go back freely and joyfully. And they will only be ready when having exposed the full depth and extent of their betrayal they raise their eyes and encountering that look of infinite tenderness and compassion they recognise Him and know Him to be truly risen.
That encounter only happened because Jesus brought their story and His story together. Jesus takes up their story, changing nothing in it, but gently leads them through the events of Scripture into a new understanding of these same events. In that light the place of Crucifixion becomes the place of Resurrection; the place of death becomes an opening to new life. This is the gift of Faith. In their eyes Jesus Passion and death was a disaster caused by evil people. Now Jesus uncovers for them a deeper reality hiding under these same events. Jesus victory over death is the real liberation. It frees us not only from earthly despots but it sets us free from the tyranny of sin and death. Now as they see this hidden reality with God’s eyes, their hearts begin to burn within them. As Jesus opened the Scripture to them revealing every thing concerning himself, their eyes are opened, and their faith restored they are able to recognise Him in the breaking of bread.
Then he vanished from their sight. He is gone again. Just as when the women went to the tomb and found it empty but of him there was no sign. But what a change. They had left Jerusalem in despair all hope gone. Now they return full of joy. They have experienced the Risen Lord, an experience of the heart, an experience of love, of presence. They no longer need any tangible visible presence of Jesus. They know with the eyes of faith that he is with them. They are indeed a new creation in Christ. They are ready to return to Jerusalem. They have a new inner life and just can’t wait to share their faith .They set out immediately, their hearts burning within them. They do not leave Jesus in Emmaus. They do not leave him anywhere. He is with them, He is in them.