For me personally, one of the main highlights of our diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land last fall was to walk on the road to Emmaus. I took time away from the other pilgrims and had my beautiful walk in silence down this simple, dirt road — a road that was filled with tremendous blessings. For years of hearing and preaching the Easter Gospels I have longed to “get there” and allow myself the privilege to go and walk this road with great hope that I would encounter his presence.
On a sunny gorgeous day with the weather being in the low 80s, there was a soft breeze as if the Holy Spirit was speaking a message I was meant to “feel” and hear. As I walked, I did encounter some of the other folks who were “on the road, along the way.” The first person who spoke to me, who was a young man from Nigeria, told me, “I feel like one of his Apostles.” The second encounter was with a middle age couple from Canada, who spoke to me and said, “We were feeling like the two on the road to Emmaus who Jesus connected with, but I guess now it must be three, unless you are Jesus.” (I chuckled.) The third encounter, a woman (I did not ask where she was from) simply passed by me and when our faces caught one another, all she said was, “Amazing, just amazing!”
Those three encounters happened because the others who walked along the way spoke to me. I had every intention of remaining silent, so hopefully “be still and know that I am God” would speak to me. The time alone definitely gave me the ability to “feel” his presence. Have you ever had that feeling where you understand for sure, “I know I am not alone”? Grace was flowing to help me take it all in.
As the Scripture account tells us the two on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus was standing in their midst. They only realized it was him when he broke the bread in front of them — then he vanished from their sight. Once they realized their “kerygmatic moment,” he moved on to his next encounter.
What I realized about my time on the Emmaus road is that Emmaus is where you are planted, where you are open and your heart is burning to meet the Risen Jesus. All three times, with the man, the couple, and the woman, all three encounters helped me to hear him and these moments were all about showing me how Emmaus is the journey, the road that leads to discipleship. For the man, it was “feeling like the Apostle;” for the couple, it was comparing their time to that of the very first two people Jesus met as he led them to “recognize” him; and then the woman feeling the power of the Holy Spirit walked in awe and amazement. These encounters of Jesus and his presence and love, which we call a “kerygmatic” experience, happened because he wanted to have this encounter with them, as he was calling them to a deeper walk with him, a stronger personal relationship with the Risen Savior. From that kerygmatic moment would be his call to true “intentional discipleship,” or a choice to make “discipleship our way of life.”
As I reflect today about this trip I realized Emmaus is not just a road near Jerusalem, but it is the many roads you and I walk and travel each day. On my trip I could see and encounter Jesus through the healing ministry of Dr. Lenny and Karen Giannone, as most of us got sick for at least a day of our trip. I heard the voice of Jesus through the wonderful preaching of Deacon Scott Keen. I was touched deeply by a holiness of faith and hunger for Christ that two sisters, Linda Rull and Janet Zeidler, witnessed to me. Our friend, 88-year-old Eleanor Novotnak, is still growing in her faith and still looking for Christ and the power of his love, and was on yet another of her many pilgrimages. I encountered Jesus in seven pilgrims from little Liberty, five from one family, reaffirming their baptismal vows “in” the Jordan River where Christ once stood. I encountered him in my friend, Joe, serving at each Mass. Joe came on this “trip of a lifetime” eager to meet Jesus, which he did. Lastly, we all were and still are inspired by our diocesan Director for the Missions, Vicki Compton, who not only coordinated this trip, but helped us to hear the voice of Jesus each time she shared about the places and events of where we traveled, in her sharing (evangelization) we truly lived the Emmaus encounter each day.
Our synod this year is all about hearing his call to discipleship. Each person of this diocese is by name “on” the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who is personally calling every one of us to “come and see.” After they realized it was Jesus with them all along the road to Emmaus, they remembered how touched they were all along as they reminisced, saying, “Were not our hearts burning as we made our way?” Be open to this invitation to “seek the Lord today where he may be found,” for the Emmaus encounter is all around us. If you feel your faith being stirred, and your heart burning, don’t run for the Rolaids, surrender to this grace filled moment, listen, be grateful, and respond with gratitude, “Here I am Lord, send me!” Yes, you and I have been on the road to Emmaus, and I can’t wait to go again!