We have all travelled the road the two disciples walked that Easter night—the road of deep disappointment, sadness, despair, and anger. But it is also a road in which we meet the Risen One in the guise of those who offer us support, compassion and counsel along the way.
One of my favorite holy pictures shows this scene of three robed figures walking along a dirt road, shafts of sunlight breaking through trees and clouds. The person in the middle, hand upraised as he talks, seems to fascinate the others. I like this artistic rendition because it allows us to observe the travelers from behind. They are walking away from some event; they are walking away from something. They have wavered from their calling.
Today, a different kind of stranger joins us. It’s a death-dealing presence, a presence from which we cannot walk away. It has interrupted our lives, our happiness, our social gatherings and fraternal responsibilities. We wish this stranger, this threat, not be in our company. It has invaded everything that we enjoy doing and loving. As in the story of St Francis and the wolf of Gubbio, so now with us—befriending the present danger we must, for our sakes, and the sake of others.
Befriending is not easy; it takes courage, it takes faith. For us today, it means: shelter-in-place, isolation, surrendering freedoms and routines. The Risen Lord surrounds us. God is with us. Everything in the Emmaus story is applicable to our life today. Jesus was more with the two disciples on their journey—even in their doubt and unbelief—than when they actually saw and recognized Him and finally believed. I find this paradox of faith—this distance and closeness, of belief and unbelief—repeated over and over again in our lives.
As Vatican II teaches, we meet Christ in the Scriptures. Let this time of deprivation help us intensify our love. Routine can become very customary. Teilhard de Chardin once wrote poetically about offering Christ on the altar of the world, “The Divine assails us, penetrates us and molds us We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.” If Emmaus is correct, then the Risen Christ surrounds us. Yes, He stays with us through the entire journey of life.