As Christ is walking along, he meets two men who have nearly lost all hope. They are beginning to feel that life has no meaning for them. Christ understands their sorrow; he sees into their heart and communicates to them some of the life he carries within himself.”

The story of two discouraged men making a long journey home after having witnessed the Lord’s gruelling passion (Luke 24:13-35) is pure balm for the suffering soul, especially for any suffering in the ways St Josemaria indicates: having lost a sense of hope or of meaning in life. By the end of the story, Jesus reveals a startling nearness to Cleopas and his companion that they had noticed all along, but couldn’t quite put their finger on: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?”

The setting is the first Easter Sunday, late afternoon. Jesus deliberately conceals His identity from them, as He prods them with questions about their obvious sorrow and agitation. He invites them to unburden themselves of their grief and confusion, refusing to be deterred by their initial, brusque surprise: “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days” (24:18)? Instead, Jesus encourages them to tell Him all about what He already knows. He is the subject of their story, their disappointments, and their hopes.

Jesus then leads them through a thorough reflection on the mission of the Messiah. Jesus does not immediately manifest Himself and command their faith and obedience. He chooses, instead, to lead them by the heart. He appeals to their hopes, corrects their misguided expectations, and sets everything right by redirecting them to God’s revelation: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory” (24:26)?

Once disposed to see more deeply into the mystery of His suffering, Jesus then completely opens their eyes in the breaking of the bread. Having prepared them to identify the Christ as the Suffering Servant, the Lord is free to reveal Himself in the broken bread—the Eucharist—and they get it! Cleopas and his companion behold the mystery and at once Jesus considers His work done and vanishes from their sight.

If the scandal of Jesus’ passion and cross seemed to void all of His powerful promises of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, then the resurrection forces all disciples to rethink everything that they thought they had already understood about Jesus’ mission. In the light of the resurrection, good and evil, justice and injustice, friendship and treachery, are revealed as reconcilable enemies. In God’s hands the most unlikely people, the most broken and even ugliest of instruments, are useful. The very things that destroy can become the tools for rebuilding, re-creating: Death brings life, weakness manifests strength, and suffering paves the way to glory.

In areas of pain and hurt we experience the least amount of understanding and acceptance, and are most tempted to rebel and become hopeless. Like the men in the Gospel it is extremely difficult to see outside of our suffering when immersed in it. We need to remember that it is precisely there, into that dark place, that Jesus inserts Himself as these men go along, sad. “Jesus seeks us out, just as he did the disciples of Emmaus, whom he went out to meet, because he knows our weakness”

St Josemaria Escriva

We understand the fatigue and sadness of these earliest Christians, their reaction to “the things that have happened in these days,” in this and the other resurrection accounts. But more importantly: Jesus understands our weakness, our short-sightedness, our need for answers—and without belittling us. Rather, He engages us in our search. He leads us step by step to the answer, respecting the pace of our understanding, until we are ready to be “startled” by how close He has been all along. Such a revelation brings with it a responsibility, to which Cleopas and his friend immediately respond: “And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem” (Lk 24:33).

Disciples who previously struggled to reconcile the Lord’s promises of salvation with the evident defeat of His passion suddenly become messengers of the gospel revelation of suffering and sacrifice. It was always what the Lord said it was: a narrow path traversed by those who would deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him.

“When suffering hits us in the same way as the Emmaus disciples—when our human hopes are tested by how fragile sickness, violence, and betrayal actually make us feel—we should feel the approach of the “stranger” at our side, and let Him put His questions to us. If we allow Him to accompany us along our journey, to “stay with us,” we will find that He communicates new life to us, remaking our hearts into the privileged place of encounter with Him” John Hanson.

May I remind you that during this time please remember I am only at the end of the phone and may I thank those who have phoned to ask after my well-being. Please continue to keep safe by observing the advice given by the Government.

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