It was on a hot, muggy afternoon that Cleopas and his friend left Jerusalem for Emmaus. The distance between Emmaus and Jerusalem being seven miles, they had plenty of time to discuss the incredible events of the past week.
It was only a few days ago that their master, Jesus, was crucified. Now they heard the disquieting news that His body was missing.
Everything leading up to His death happened so swiftly that they couldnt remember all the events in chronological order. They knew one thing for sure: it was no ordinary man who was crucified. This Jesus was unlike anyone they had ever known. He understood them. At times He knew what they were thinking. He listened to and cared about them. Now He was gone. They had grown to love Him and they were filled with sorrow at His absence. Yet within them lingered a little hope. Some women who went to His tomb found it empty. Cleopas and his friend could not understand this. What could have happened?
Occasionally they would cease talking and grow silent. Each was lost in his separate thoughts about Jesus and the effect He had on their individual lives.
Later they would resume their conversation. Just as families do when a member dies, Cleopas and his friend were remembering aloud the joyful moments they experienced with Jesus. They interrupted each other with events: the time He fed 4,000 people from seven loaves of bread and a few fish, or the time He changed water into wine at the Cana wedding.
He only displayed His anger a few times. But when He did, they remembered it well. They recalled the day He chased the money changers out of the temple. They vividly remember the look in His eyes as He challenged the person without a sin to cast the first stone at the woman accused of adultery. They were so absorbed in talking and remembering that they failed to notice a stranger who began walking along with them.
When He inquired into what they were discussing, they were astonished to learn that He wasnt aware of the recent events. You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who doesnt know the things that have been happening there these last few days, they said.
After hearing their accounts of the events He told them how the prophets had predicted it all. He started with Moses and went through all the prophets explaining everything that was foretold.
As they approached Emmaus the sun was setting. Cleopas, seeing that the day was nearly over and intrigued by this stranger, insisted that He join them for supper. Aware of the strangers deep spirituality, they asked if He would offer the prayer before eating.
Little were they expecting Him to respond to their request by taking the bread and blessing it. It was in the blessing of the bread that they recognized Him as their master Jesus. With that, He disappeared.
They stared at His empty chair in disbelief remembering how exhilarated they were when He was explaining the prophecies to them.
Isnt it the same with us? At times, we too fail to recognize Christ as he travels with us because He appears as a nondescript person begging for a dollar. He appears as the old woman always alone at the back of the church after Mass. He is also within that unpleasant neighbor who never returns our friendly smile or hello. Christ is just as much within our cantankerous co-worker as He is within our best friend, but we choose not to see Him in the former. He is in the annoyingly loud person who rides our bus or train. He is within the relative whom we wish wasnt related to us.
As we journey through life we are selfishly caught up in our own everyday activities. Too often we are so involved with our problems that we fail to see the problems of others. Frequently, if we do see them, we ignore them.
Yet it is paradoxical as soon as we start to care about other peoples problems ours appear smaller. Our problems seem to go into perspective when we attempt to share others burdens.
There are times when we can be prevented from seeing Christ in those around us because our sights are focused elsewhere.
By lingering over past hurts, or dwelling on events that might have happened differently, we lose sight of those around us.
Making the past too big a part of our present can be compared to looking in a mirror. The closer we are to the glass, the larger our face is. As we step back we can identify surrounding objects. In stepping back from our past we are better able to see the needs of those around us now.
As Christians we are taught to see Christ within those traveling through life with us. In striving to treat one another as we would treat Christ, the Christ in us is seen. That is the lesson of the journey to Emmaus.