Sunday Gospel Reflection by Fr. Efren Jimenez, OFM

The Road to Emmaus – How to get There
From Jerusalem, to Nablus, turn left at kilometer 9 (Nablus is a flourishing town, Center of Samaria district, known for its soap made from olive oil).

Following the road for another 4 kilometers you hit a sleepy Arab Muslim Village called EL Qubeibeh, Emmaus.

There are three Christian neighborhoods there – the German Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, the German Hospice, and the Franciscan compound composed of a Sanctuary, the Convent of friars, and a school.

The name EL Qubeibeh (Little Dome), possibly got its name from a dome (Parva Mahomeria) of the Crusaders. The Franciscans took care of the property since their arrival in 1335 for the custody of the Holy Land, and began a pilgrimage there. Unfortunately, Emmaus is out of the way for pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. But it is worth visiting the place because of its truly biblical significance.

Franciscans Archaeologists made several excavations there throughout the years and they have confirmed the existence of the village at the time of Christ. The Franciscan built a sanctuary there in 1861, in the spot where the Byzantine Community stood from 3rd to 6th Century.

At present visitors may enter a wide gate leading to the Square in front of the Church, the ubiquitous Jerusalem Cross emblazoned on the iron gate. The road leading to the sanctuary is filled with ancient pines and olive trees so that you really feel the welcome invitation on the gate, “Lord, stay with us!”

On a clear day, standing 800 meters above sea, the city of Jerusalem can be seen, and further toward the sea the ancient city of Jaffa, where the imposing church of St. Peter stands at the edge of the Mediterranean sea. (It is in this monastery of St. Peter where I have lived for sometime.) Inside the church at the left side, is a constructed rectangular place, which according to tradition is the place of the “house” of Cleopas, one of the disciples who entertained the Divine Messiah after his resurrection.

The Road to Emmaus – Our Story
Luke’s story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is our story. It is a beautiful post Resurrection story of life’s journey. This story is so profound in its message that studies on stages of human growth in the aging process considered this episode as corresponding to spiritual passages experienced by those celebrating midlife journey.

In the course of this journey on the road to Emmaus, the disciples move from despair, disorientation, and new beginnings. The two disciples are leaving Jerusalem because they have experienced the death of Jesus and not the resurrection. They had believed in him and his cause and gave themselves to him and his work. Now he was dead and gone and they were in a state of disorientation. We can imagine what they said to one another, “Conversing about all the things that had occurred.” “(Luke 24:14)

The midlife experience recognizes some shock received of an unexpected inner or outer event in one’s life. Both small and great events can be the cause of one’s kingdom tumbling down. The infidelity of a spouse, the death of a spouse, divorce, demotion, a child on drugs, unwanted pregnancy, health problems – any of these can be the cause of someone asking, “Is this all there is?”

The two disciples asked, “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.” How much this reflects the person moving to the end of the first half of life. “I had such hopes,” one cries internally.

In the wake of a broken relationship, shortened dreams, mental or physical collapse, lost joy and lost soul, painful betrayal and darkness never before imagined, one finds oneself without hope or expectation of a new life, resurrection.

But Jesus puts light on the bigger story. Jesus enlightens the disciples by showing the deeper meaning of what had occurred in the suffering and death of Jesus, “As he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:27) The person in midlife rises up out of the ashes. The disciples got up immediately and returned to Jerusalem where they found the Eleven and the rest of the company assembled. They shared all that caused their sorrow, they had been dead, and now they lived.

There is a call to growth, a call to spiritual growth in each of us, a call to the significance and meaning of our own suffering and pain and of life itself, a call to intimate relationship with Christ the Beloved, a call to the transpersonal and to love and liberation of each other; a call to true wisdom and redemptive love of Christ.

About Fr. Ej and his reflections.