The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were not out for a Sunday stroll. Emmaus was a Roman garrison town, which looks like a strange destination for any disciple of Jesus, never mind two missionaries! What matters is that they are moving away from Jerusalem. Avoiding
Jerusalem is avoiding the destiny of the Beloved Son of God. These disciples are abandoning the powerless Christ in favour of the power of the Rome that executed Him. These are not travellers but deserters, not people on a mission but people walking away from one.
It's just as well that they never arrive there. If they had, they would be within the walls of Rome and the way of life this symbolises. A way of power over others. The way of death. However, the Risen One cuts across their pathway and their inability to understand the spiritual truths hidden in His suffering and death. They do not recognise Him at first because, in their grief, they have forgotten the way He moves in the world and with them.
Jesus begins a friendly conversation and when it is ending He looks like He is moving on. But where is He going? It may be that He is on His way to the ends of the earth. He will tell anyone He meets along the way of the gift of God. Those who understand will follow. Those who do not
understand will not. But now something is stirring in the hearts of these two, expressed in their request, 'Stay with us'. As they sit to eat, the veil clouding their vision lifts the moment Jesus takes the Eucharistic Bread and breaks it open.
He takes His life in His Sacred Hands, He gives thanks for it and gives that life to others so that they may grow strong in it. The key in finding Christ is knowing where to look. Now their hearts are re-awakened. Once the heart burns, the eyes are opened and they are ready to apprentice themselves once more to the Divine Teacher. Now they go back to Jerusalem to tell the others that He is Risen!
In the life of every disciple of Jesus, the moment must come when we ask Him to 'stay with us'. It's all He needs. Now He can teach us about the eternal beauty of the self which makes sacrifices. As we ponder the power of the cross and of the Eucharist in our lives, I wonder sometimes if we really understand the endless secret acts which give life and strength to others that we have woven into them. Perhaps we forget the times when we reached out to another person to support them. That who we really are lies hidden beneath the things we think are important!
If you've ever watched 'It's A Wonderful Life' you will have seen how George Bailey needed to be reminded of all the good he had done and forgotten as an antidote to suicide. Perhaps it is time to take our lives in our hands, to give thanks for them. For is it not true, that those who pour out their lives for others - not from guilt or compulsion or in a way that exhausts them - are people of secret gratitude. They give from the fullness that have received from God. Life received as a gift - Life given as a gift.