One of my favorite Gospel accounts is the story of the disciples of Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). I am always touched especially by two verses: Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road? (v. 32), and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread (v. 35). The account describes the road to Emmaus and what happened once the disciples got there.
We usually hear and reflect on this Gospel account on a Sunday after Easter. So why am I reflecting on it now? I am reading a new book by Anthony Gittins, CSSp, called Courage and Conviction: Unpretentious Christianity (Liturgical Press, 2018). In Chapter 3 on Rethinking and Recommitting to the Mission, Gittins reflects on the Emmaus story, not from the perspective of the road to Emmaus, but away from Emmaus back to Jerusalem, which he sees as ‘returning home’ – a turning around, a conversion. “Our conversion,” Gittins says, “depends on our determination to change direction in order to ‘return home’.” (p.34)
Gittins interprets the Emmaus disciples’ conversion and return to Jerusalem as an invitation to us to turn around and ‘return home.’ For me, this is a whole new way of hearing my favorite story. According to Courage and Conviction, the Emmaus story is:
- An invitation to go back and reinterpret my own life story. I am invited to ask myself what I may have left unfinished that still needs attention. It is a call to rediscover ‘the Way’ back home.
- A call to remember when my heart was burning and my zeal was true passion and compassion.
- A call to recognize Jesus’ presence in my table-fellowship. Gittins suggests that if I do not recognize Christ in the Eucharist, what chance is there of recognizing him in other disguises?
- A call to think and act differently, to pledge myself to looking more intentionally for Jesus at the tables of my life. “Com-pan-ions are those with whom we break and share bread.”
- An appeal to discover what the stranger in disguise may have to offer me. I am invited to ask myself if I can be a gracious receiver, a grateful recipient, one indebted to others. Most times, I find it easier to be a giver than to accept graciously the gifts of others.
- A call to continue life’s journey, but with resurrection faith. This is after all an Easter story!
Q. What have you left unfinished that still needs attention?
Q. Do you remember a time when your heart was burning with compassion?
Q. When do you recognize Jesus most often?
Q. When have you been able to be gracious in receiving the gifts of others?