Yesterday morning, after Lauds and Mass, we piled into several cars and drove out to a nearby lake where we spent the day relaxing, playing games, and simply enjoying being together.
It was our annual Easter Monday outing which we simply call “Emmaus Day,” so-named after Luke’s story of Jesus’ appearance to two disciples as they walked along the road to Emmaus. The two travelers were talking over the events of recent days, downcast and confused by the strange turn of events in Jerusalem – an arrest, a crucifixion, a tomb with a missing body… As they traveled, Jesus joined them on the road, but they did not immediately recognize him. It wasn’t until he broke bread with them that “their eyes were opened and they recognized” the risen Lord.
The story of the road to Emmaus reminds us, of course, of Jesus’ presence in our midst. It also reminds us that what we see is not all that there is. To the physical eye, the road may appear impassable and the journey futile. The cross may appear to be the end, and even an empty tomb may lead to more questions than answers, as it did for the confused travelers to Emmaus. But in the breaking of bread, and in the breaking open of scripture, our eyes break open, and we recognize the presence of the Lord in even the most seemingly-futile of situations.
Our road to the lake requires us to take a few turns along the way. At one turn, a sign reads “Dead End.” Another sign warns, “Road ends 1 mile ahead – Underwater.” To all appearances we were on a fruitless journey, headed for impassability and impossibility. Yet our dead end road led us to a day of life and, as Sr. Bertha put it, “pure joy.”
Our Emmaus Day is a day to continue our joyful celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. It is also a day to celebrate our life as a community of believers united with believers throughout the ages, including the two who traveled the road to Emmaus. The risen Lord was in their midst then, and He is in our midst today. In Christ’s presence, even seemingly dead-end roads lead to life as He travels with us on our way, “our hearts burning within us” in the delight of His love.
Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. – Rule of Benedict, Prologue 48-49
Postscript: See Luke 24: 13-35 for the Emmaus story