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He Met Them on the Road to Emmaus. . .and Meets Us Now Wherever We Are


By Msgr. Fran Cilia

The two disciples were tired, disappointed, and they were going home.
The journey was about seven miles, no more than two or three hours.
Jesus was on their mind, in their thoughts, and likely in their words.
“We had hoped,” they said, “that he was the one we had been waiting for.”

And Jesus, the topic of their thoughts and words, appeared to them.

They did not go to a holy site, to the temple, the synagogue, or even down to the river. Jesus met them on that road, somewhere between Jerusalem and Emmaus.

He opened their minds, their hearts, and their very selves to understand and even to recognize Him, in their home, around their table, in the breaking of the bread. The Lord spoke to their hearts as He broke open for them the words of the Scriptures.

Nearly twenty centuries and 7,500 miles removed from Emmaus, as we also wait in hope for an end to our pandemic, our sheltering and distancing, many who read these words are distressed that once again this weekend we will not be allowed to go to church, to gather as a community of faith, and to celebrate the Eucharist. While this is true and it is distressing, our reading of the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke should fill us with courage, with faith and with hope.

For as Jesus met Cleopas and his companion where they were, so the same Lord does not put upon us expectations that we cannot meet. The Lord Jesus comes to us whenever and wherever we call upon him: sheltered in our homes, afraid in our isolation, or anxious in our quarantine. Whenever and wherever we call upon Him, He is present to us; and the Lord shares the same word, the good news, that the tragedies of our lives are not to mark us for eternity.

During the weeks that will soon become the months of our isolation, we can take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus is present in so many ways. As Catholics, we focus on the Real Presence of the Eucharist: Christ Himself, “body and blood, soul and divinity,” is really and truly with us in the Eucharist. We also believe that the Lord is truly present in God’s word, the Scriptures. We need not be in church to open the Bible or even just the readings assigned for Mass on Sunday or weekdays [see http://usccb.org/bible/readings for the readings of the day, or http://usccb.org/bible/readings-audio.cfm to hear the readings].

We do not always remember – or live by – the Lord’s teaching, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). But if we do, we can form the domestic church, which Saint John Paul II described during Mass at New York’s Aqueduct Race Track on October 6, 1995: “The Domestic church is a church in the home as it were, where God is honored, his law is respected, prayer is a normal event, virtue is transmitted by word and example, and everyone shares the hopes, the problems and sufferings of everyone else.” The family, sheltered and even separated from other families are not simply “viewers” of an online Mass, but in their very home they create the Church of Christ who is known, celebrated and worshipped as they open the word of God and strive to live it to their best.

Christ Himself comes to meet us where we are and he shows Himself to us, here in San Jose or Gilroy or Palo Alto, and in all of the cities and towns in between, as He did that night on the way to Emmaus.