“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.” – Mother Teresa: 1910 – 1997 (Catholic nun born in Albania)
Gospel Text: (LK 24:13-35)
That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
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?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his Body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
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.”
And he said to them, “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?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the Eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
The Emmaus disciples saw their hopes and dreams dashed and crushed. Theirs is a piercing cry: “We were hoping…” [24:21] They were expecting this Jesus to be a mighty liberator or warrior. They never imagined the outcome of that terrible Friday on a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem.
We know what happens when such feelings overtake us: we become despondent, indifferent, cynical and sad. How many times have we been like the two on the road, uttering those same words: “We were hoping…” We were hoping that wars, violence and terrorism would have ceased. We were hoping that our children would have remained in the Church. We were hoping that the ravages of sickness and ageing would have spared a loved one or even ourselves much physical and mental anguish. Like the two on the road to Emmaus, do we not feel that we are victims of time, fate, circumstance and external factors?
We cannot live without hope but we must be prudent and wise in our hoping. Given the cultural and social context in which we live, there is a risk of reducing Christian hope to an ideology, to group slogans, to mere appearances and feelings. Nothing could be more opposite to Jesus’ message! He does not want His disciples to simply recite a role of hope. He wants them “to be hope”.
To believe in the resurrection does not mean we embrace fleeting ideologies, secular strategies, cheap slogans and catchy themes. It means that we fall in love again with God’s Envoy, the Risen Lord, and remain in an intimate relationship with him. Apart from Him we can do nothing. We cannot afford to simply be people “who were hoping.” Rather we must become hope, and we can be so only if we remain united to Him.