We Are Called to Accompany Others

The story of the two disciples trudging the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus on Easter Sunday evening is my favorite of all the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. It is a story that is rich and powerful in meaning, and would take more than one article to explain. I would like to focus on how this is a story about the heart. It is what Pope Francis has invited us to do, that being to accompany one another on the journey.

As the two disciples were making their way home, they were discussing the events of the past days which involved Jesus. He had filled their lives with meaning, hope and joy. They were convinced that he was the long awaited Messiah. And now that he was dead they were haunted by his absence. What went wrong?

The hearts of the two disciples were empty, heavy with sorrow, wounded by disappointment, and numb with grief. Jesus’ death, and the horrible manner in which it took place, had completely shattered their hopes and dreams. A humiliated, stripped, crucified Messiah? Impossible! Unthinkable! What went wrong?

And then Jesus joins them, in other words, he accompanies them on the journey. With tenderness and compassion, he slowly opened their minds to the idea of a suffering Messiah, as he broke open the sacred texts that referred to him. The words of Jesus became light penetrating the darkness of their hearts. By the time he sat down at table with them in the house at Emmaus, and revealed himself to them in the breaking of the bread, their hearts were transformed! “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” With hearts renewed, they immediately made their way back to Jerusalem to share the good news with those gathered in the Upper Room behind locked doors.

What was it that happened to them? What did Jesus do for them? Certainly he illuminated their minds, but he did something far greater. Jesus set their hearts on fire! They were changed, life was different.

While faith is very much concerned with the mind in so far as it has to do with truths, dogmas, doctrines and creeds, it is even more concerned with the heart. Faith is about a relationship with the Lord who first loved us.

The encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus allowed the two disciples to experience this love. It was this experience that made their hearts burn, which had them say to Jesus, “Stay with us.” The story shows us the goodness of God who satisfies the deepest longings of the human heart in most surprising ways.

The Emmaus event also tells us something important about our discipleship. We are called to accompany others, to be present to them, to listen, to encourage them to grow.

– Fr. Dennis, April 26, 2020