This post is based on Week Eight of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
Like many of us today, the disciples on the road to Emmaus were at a loss and in despair over a world seemingly gone mad, seeing the foundational principles of the world around them being shaken and living in fear for their own lives. The horror and shock of the Crucifixion had overwhelmed all hope and threatened the teachings of love and compassion Jesus had sought to instill. Do the horrors of today’s world events overwhelm your sense of hope? Do the teachings of love and compassion seem pointless in the face of terrorist atrocities, global warming, racial hatred, refugee crises, and so many other evils? Wherever you are at this moment, you are on that road to Emmaus.
Something happens on this road.
Christ joins the disciples, walks beside them, breaks bread with them, and opens their hearts with his Word in a way that is so overwhelming, the world is no longer mad to them. Note the world situation has not changed at all, but the hearts of the disciples have. For any Christian, for anyone who professes belief in the Resurrection and the teachings of Jesus, our hearts must be overwhelmed by this same interaction with God on our own roads to Emmaus. Christ walks beside us today. Christ breaks bread with us today. Christ opens our hearts with his Word today in exactly the same way he did on that road to Emmaus 2,000 years ago. His teachings are the same: Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. Love your neighbor, and pray for your enemies. Forgive all. Welcome the stranger. Care for the sick. Visit the imprisoned. Provide for the least among us. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Nothing has changed, except now we are the ones walking the road.
This encounter on the road so turned the hearts of the disciples that they literally turned around and ran back into the fray, back into Jerusalem, back into the world. So must we allow our encounter with Christ in others, in prayer, in the Eucharist, and in the Word to turn our hearts around today. We must allow ourselves to be so overwhelmed by the revelation of a God of love, that no fear, no evil, no suffering, and no hatred can leave us in despair.
The choice is ours. You can continue on your road to Emmaus and stay there. Continue to live in despair, confusion, instability, and fear. Continue to live in a world where evil has the last word and death is the end of life. Or hear the Word, hear the Voice, and be overwhelmed by Love. Go back to Jerusalem, back to your passion, back to healing, back to a life of hope, and back to a world where love has the last word and life never ends.
Image: Matthias Stom, “Supper at Emmaus,” 17th century