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“He Walked With Them”

eventFriday, 05 June 2020

Original: English

Third Sunday of Easter/April 26, 2020

Acts 2:14, 22-33; Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35

“He Walked With Them”

“And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them. . . .”

Normally, I would be drawn to the second part of this sentence – “but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him” – since it pretty much describes a chronic problem for me, and I suppose, for many of us. So often it happens that I – that we -- don’t recognize him. This part of the sentence invites me and us to consider what I, what we, need to do to change our ways of seeing. And yet today, as I look out onto our empty street and realize that we’ve been “social-distancing” for over a month now, with more to come, it’s the first part of the sentence that really speaks to me. The two disciples are walking along to Emmaus and Jesus comes up and walks with them. How utterly unremarkable. How utterly ordinary. Until now.

During that walk of seven miles, the two disciples find themselves very affected by this friendly and strangely knowledgeable companion. Perhaps they hadn’t realized how much they’d wanted, even needed conversation with another, someone with a different perspective. Really, how much they had a need to encounter someone else. When they arrived at their destination, he appeared to be going farther, but they, still longing for companionship and the word he offered ( the Word he was, I suppose), asked him: “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”

“So he went in to stay with them.”  They sat down together, ordered some food, talked some more. Then, “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.” We know the end of the story:

“With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.” From their sight, yes, but not from their hearts, not from their memories, not from their excited joy and immediate decision to rush back to the others, still locked away in Jerusalem, to share the news.

One month and more since we’ve had a Eucharistic encounter, I yearn for the day when we will experience what Cleopas and his companion experienced on that day. I yearn, of course, to receive Communion again, but I also yearn for things that might not have always been so important to me before COVID-19 shook our world so fiercely: listening, proclaiming, praying, singing, standing, sitting, kneeling, shaking hands at the Kiss of Peace – with others who desire the same thing. We may not be all of a piece when it comes to our perspectives on the world, or politics, or even the Church. But we are all the Church, just as those two disciples were. Catholic that I am, I require things that touch my flesh: I miss tangible experiences with tangible people who make up Church, and look forward to the day when I – when we – will be together again. Until then, experiences like Emmaus can remind us of the precious ordinariness that gives life its fullness, depth and breadth, its sacredness, really. May we be together again in such ordinary and sacred ways soon. Amen.