Our road to Emmaus in 2020

emmaus2020_headerI can sense their hurt frustration.

He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?”

They stopped, looking downcast. 

One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”

The weariness. The brokenness.

I can almost imagine Cleopas saying those words half-sarcastically, as if to imply to the stranger: What, do you live under a rock? 

More so this year than any other, the story of the Road to Emmaus rings true to what we  are facing right now.

Imagine if someone were to encounter you today, as you don a face mask to make the weekly socially-distant run to the grocery store to replenish necessities.

Imagine if that person were to curiously eye your face covering, your wary expression as they approach you a bit too closely for socially-distant comfort, and ask: “What is going on here? Why do you look like that? Why are you avoiding standing near other people?”

A natural, exasperated reply from you might be along the lines of, “Are you the only person in the world who does not know of the things that have taken place in these days?”

The disciples do not mean to be unkind to the stranger on the way to Emmaus. In fact, they stop and give him a detailed overview of what, in fact, has taken place these days in Jerusalem.

Their exhaustion — their sadness — comes through their words.

“… then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” 

There is no more hope, they seem to say. Jesus is gone. We do not know where he is. There is nothing left for us.

The stranger — Jesus, of course — responds immediately: “Oh how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

We know how it goes from there. He interprets all to them — the prophesies, the scriptures. They urge him to stay with them, and he does. He joins them for dinner.

And then they recognize him in the breaking of the bread.

With that their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…

In our region, this is the sixth Sunday that we’re celebrating the Sabbath without Mass. My husband and I have gotten into an actually pleasant tradition for Sundays: we pray our diocese’s Liturgy of the Word guide for celebration in one’s home, we go through the Panera drive-through for some breakfast, and we try to live a peaceful, rested Sabbath.

But we know, like everyone knows, this is not the same.

Even for me, an introvert who (under normal circumstances) values lots of time in my house, this is getting a little old.

I can 100% relate to the disciples in this morning’s Gospel, who are working through the idea that everything they had come to believe is now crumbling around them.

And yet, as our bishop keeps reminding us over and over, we’re never beyond the reach of God.

Jesus can, in fact, meet us where we are, during this time of isolation and loneliness and mental exhaustion. In prayer. In gathering — maybe with people you live with, or through digital means. In reading — and maybe not even overtly spiritual reading. In writing snail-mail letters to friends and family far away to send them a bit of human contact. In finding joy through cooking, or gardening, or crafting. In walking outside and glorying in the blue spring skies.

As the disciples came to understand and to celebrate, Jesus is, in fact, alive.

And he’s with us now. Even when we can’t see him or recognize him immediately. But he’s here.

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