Meditation on st. Luke’s gospel, chapter 24, 13-35
In the context of the covid-19 pandemic
This overwhelming Covid-19 pandemic seems to signal the end of our contemporary age, as it affects globally our social, economic, political, cultural and even religious world. Despite the despair and sadness that it brings, we are still called to continue our journey together. The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, in St. Luke’s Gospel chapter 24, 13-35, has enlightened me in a particular way and I would like to share it here with you. First, we will read the signs of the times so that we recognise the presence and will of God. Then we will go to meet this Unknown One who is none other than Jesus Himself. We will then see how the mysterious Revelation of the Risen Christ is taking place. Finally, we will witness to the hope and joy of the Resurrection in the face of this dreadful Covid-19 pandemic.
Reading the signs of the times to recognise the Presence and Will of God
First of all, the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, which happened on the very day of the Resurrection, reflects our current situation. Saint Luke tells us that "On the same day [of the Resurrection], two of them were going to a village called Emmaus ... and they were talking among themselves about all these events" (Lk 24:13-14). According to my personal reading, this "village called Emmaus" of Luke’s is, in our context, the one we live in and "these events" refer to the poignant upheavals of the Covid-19 pandemic which the media broadcast daily. When Luke specifies that the disciples on the road to Emmaus were two (Lk 24:13), and that "one of them was named Cleopas" (Lk 24:18) while the other remained anonymous, he invites us to value more greatly the communal dimension of our lives than our individual identities and values. In our Covid-19 context, the health emergency and the cry of vulnerable and badly affected people challenge us to value life and to take a fresh look at others alongside our own problems.
This calls for solidarity and fellowship even when social restrictions force us to withdraw into ourselves. We have to share sincerely and deeply and then let go of all our anguish and desolation. Sharing comforts us and rekindles our hope. In this, modern technology aids our communication, interaction, fellowship, mutual support and openness to others. It also helps us to get through this difficult time, to love our time as Mother Marie Eugénie says. We are therefore called to take a Christian view of our life now in interpreting the signs of the times, especially in the light of St Luke’s Gospel (24, 13-35), which I recommend to you so that we can recognise the presence and will of God in today's world.
Confident encounter with this unknown one who is none other than Jesus himself.
During the meeting with this unknown man who approaches and walks with them, the two disciples stop and share with Him what was happening in the city and in their hearts (cf. Lk 24:17-24). In the context of Covid-19, the attitude of these disciples on the road to Emmaus teaches us to take the risk of opening ourselves to others, even if they are unknown to us, and above all to share their suffering, discouragement, and life. In other words, we are called to go out of ourselves, to welcome this unknown Other, to trust Him and to accompany Him. The two disciples walked with this Unknown One in complete confidence; they pressed Him to stay with them, and then, after having shared with Him not only what was happening in the city of Jerusalem and in their hearts, but, even more, reflected with Him, their eyes were opened and they recognised Him. How they leapt with joy: "Were not our hearts burning within us when He spoke to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us? "(Lk 24:32). It is through the Scriptures and through Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, that we become strong enough to face this trial of Covid-19. We are called to trust in Jesus Christ and his words, and to rely on each other. A Malagasy saying illustrates this idea: "Mpirahalahy mianala ka izy tokiko, izaho tokiny", meaning: "When two brothers go into the forest, I count on him and he trusts me". In other words, the fraternal support and solidarity that we bear witness to in the presence of Christ help us to face this Covid-19 that darkens our life today.
Mysterious Revelation of the Risen Christ
While the disciples on the road to Emmaus were discussing these events that had turned upside down their hearts, their faith and their entire lives, "... behold, Jesus Himself came and walked with them. But they were unable to recognise Him. "(Lk 24:15-16). They were still locked in their past, discussing death and the end of everything. And now, even though Life appeared to them, they did not recognise him. In our distress, let us remember that the Risen Christ, the Master of life, does not abandon us and that He comes close to us. Human-God, Emmanuel, God-with-us, He is the One in whom we can put our trust and our hope.
Then, "when they were near the village, He made as if to go on, but they pressed Him saying, 'Stay with us, for evening is falling and the day is coming to an end’. So he went in to stay with them" (Lk 24:28-29). Jesus, the tireless Pilgrim, invites his disciples to go further, just as he invites us today as we face the darkness of our lives. At the invitation of the disciples, Jesus makes his home among them and is recognised at the breaking of the bread. Openness to the Unknown, mutual trust and generous welcome reveal the mysterious presence of the Risen Christ and dispel all kinds of desolation and sadness. The joy of the encounter with the Lord sends out these disciples to be his witnesses among their companions.
Witnessing to the hope and joy of the Resurrection
To conclude, the Covid-19 pandemic still affects globally our social, economic, political, cultural and even religious world but, faced with this situation, we are surely called to take the risk of opening our hearts and our eyes to see those around us who are in need, to dare to go to the periphery to be at the service of life. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus in St Luke’s Gospel (24, 13-35), we are called to place the little we have into the Lord's hands and to share with others, yes - our distress, but even more our hope and joy, and our life. A Malagasy saying challenges us: "Valala iray ifanapahana" which means: "Let us share even a grasshopper with each other". Faced with this terrible Covid-19 pandemic, the Lord calls us to draw on his creative love, to build a more fraternal world, to help each other, and to witness to the hope and joy of the Resurrection among those who are vulnerable, abandoned and desperate, so that light may shine in the darkness, so that life may triumph over death and good may prevail over evil. Are these not signs of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth?
Sr HARINILALA Patricia Norberthine
Novice Mistress, Province of Madagascar