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The Road to Emmaus

Not very long after I had started my first job, I had been there less than a year, the Personnel Director came and invited me to meet and greet the new university graduates who were perhaps applying to join us when they left college later that summer.  Apart from anything else, the task involved joining the aspirants for a spot of lunch and so, never being a person to miss a free meal, I gladly accepted the assignment.  Well, among the twenty or so people was a girl who seemed somehow familiar to me.  This was reinforced when she sought me out over the sausage rolls and chatted amiably about what she had discovered about the company and posed questions about her prospects should she sign up.  All along, I felt that I should be affirming our previous acquaintance but since I was absolutely unable to work out just how we might have known one another.  Should I shake her hand or cuddle her madly?  As she gave not a single clue, I kept silent.

As it turned out, she did join the company and so it was that I discovered that Sue had lived in the village next to mine and that for more than eight years we had shared the same bus to and from school.  Often we were the only ones on board since the villages were very small and at the end of the route.  I was embarrassed at my forgetfulness and I sensed that she had been slightly hurt by it.

It seems to me that there were two reasons that I did not recognise Sue and that these may have been among the reasons that the disciples did not recognise Jesus. 

Firstly, I did not expect to see her there; the disciples certainly did not expect to see Jesus.  After all, just as Thomas in last week’s reading, they had seen him “taken away, condemned to death and crucified,” so they had very good reasons not to expect to see him.

Secondly, they were engaged in deep conversation, following the path to their village, just as I was engaged in “meeting and greeting” wondering in my inexperience what I might say and trying to circulate and of course asses the candidates.  We can imagine the disciples walking along, animated, disturbed and distressed by the week’s events, from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to death, to burial and to the “astounding” account of Mary and the other women.  They would have been discussing all this and sharing opinions about it.  In other words they are not really paying careful attention.  In a way, I see this as a visual parable, to meet Jesus to recognise his presence, we have to lift our eyes from the road, disengage from our daily pre-occupations and spend time with him.  During my lunch, although nagging slightly, the question of “Who Sue was?” was only getting a fraction of my mind and so it was with Cleopas and his companion.  Somebody had joined them on the road, a common enough occurrence, but perhaps they hadn’t stopped to allow Jesus’ presence to reach them.

Later, though, once something had prompted them to invite Jesus to stay with them, the presence of the living Lord is made known by his breaking of the bread.  “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”  This is a wonderful Gospel moment and the beauty of it is that we relive that moment, here every Sunday when we come to the communion rail.  As we kneel there, we lift up our eyes from the road, we let fall our daily preoccupations and we open ourselves to a unique, undisturbed simple moment with God.  A moment that is just you and God, and where we recognize the living Lord with all our hearts, with all our minds and with all our souls.


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