This homily is based on Luke24:13-35 for the 3rd Sunday of Easter.
“We had hoped….”
We can hear the disappointment in the two disciples’ voices as they spoke to the stranger on the road.
“We had hoped…”
In other words, they no longer did.
What’s striking, however, is that these two had already heard of the empty tomb found not only by the women, but also confirmed by some of the disciples (we know these to be Peter and John themselves).
But just the same, they gave up, packed up their bags, leaving Jerusalem to go home–despite rumors of a resurrection.
Here we have two disciples of Jesus who had basically given up. They were throwing their hands up. They had tired of hoping. But they did one thing that saved them: They talked to the stranger on the road. They didn’t have to. They could have chosen to wallow in their own private grief, but they opened their hearts to the stranger, allowing him into their world.
As it turned out, the stranger was the Risen Christ, who, unlike them, hadn’t given up on them or tired of believing in them. He walked with them and patiently explained Scripture to them in light of what had happened. When they gathered around the table did the disciples finally recognize him, but the moment they did, he disappeared. Only then did they understand why their hearts, against every reason, had been on fire.
Losing hope is a kind of dead-end, but because of the Risen Lord, the two disciples’ dead end became but a detour that led them back to Jerusalem– their hopes rekindled, their faith resuscitated. This is the gift of Emmaus.
These days, it’s so easy to give up and to lose hope. Day in and day out, we hear bad news, and some of us may be getting tired of looking for the silver lining, of nursing our hopes, of keeping the faith.
The story of Emmaus reminds us why we shouldn’t give up: Because the Lord will never give up on us. As he did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he walks with us. For the most part, he remains unrecognized still, but because of Emmaus, we can choose to believe that there will come a time when our eyes will be opened. It is he who will keep our hearts on fire.
But we need to do what the two disciples did: Refuse to lock ourselves up in our own thoughts and feelings. Rather, we should open ourselves to others. Even as we isolate ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually, we are invited to open our hearts to others, emotionally and spiritually, to choose to be in solidarity with others–especially those who are suffering and especially those we do not know or are different from us.
For God hands the gift of Emmaus through strangers.