Two unnamed disciples leave the tragedy of Jerusalem, bewildered, bereaved, frightened, confused and abandoned. They walk along the road the dusty road to Emmaus, with heads probably lowered in great moments of silence and they are facing the sun setting over Jerusalem. They are walking into the darkness of evening. They are witnesses to human suffering in the person of their Lord and Master and they feel in themselves the darkness that is falling around them that Easter Evening. They had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem, but all they are left with is an empty tomb without its body. No one had seen the resurrection take place, only the women had witnessed the emptiness. The women they had been told witnessed a vision of angels who told them that Jesus was alive. These two disciples walked away, walked into the darkness that was falling. Confused and saddened they walked away feeling within themselves the emptiness of that cave, a cave that even the dead seemingly abandoned.
In life we too can walk away from situations we do not understand and cannot control, sometimes it seems to the best way to cope with difficulties and tragedies. Very humanly we turn our backs and walk in the opposite direction as the only way to cope with or even survive the trials that life can present to us. Like the two disciples on the road we can however run too fast, not to the tomb, but to what seems like light, when in fact is the sun setting and not rising.
What is the challenge of this Gospel for Ireland today? Many of our people have walked in different paths in different directions, family members and friends, neighbours and even our children may have seemed to walk the opposite way like the two disciples. They have stood perhaps at the feet of a tragedy, a moment of personal suffering, and they like the two may have experienced not the comfort of resurrection and life, but rather the emptiness of a tomb. What they may have hoped for has not being realised, they too perhaps feel abandoned and empty, frightened and confused. The faith we have, they have wanted to experience in their own lives, the faith that gives us life has not been an experience of liberation for them. They see the tomb with the shadow of the cross, and the shadow is dark indeed.
I like to think of Dominicans as “Memores Domini” Those who keep the memory of the Lord alive. Those who keep the Lord alive in their minds and hearts, thinking of him, contemplating him and speaking thus to others of him. In this story of the Emmaus encounter the person of Jesus walks beside the two disciples and opens for them the scriptures, talking to them of himself and of God’s love for the world. This is the ideal of the Dominican vocation and indeed all vocations. Our Christian vocation today is not to stand at the side of the road and watch people pass-by, our vocation is to walk with our loved ones, to walk with our families and friends, to walk with them into the sun setting in their own lives. We cannot force them to turn around, but we can walk with them and speak with them, to keep the memory of the Lord in their presence witnessed through our lives. Our vocation maybe to set the world on fire, but maybe it is hearts that need to be set on fire, as we know the disciples said very beautifully, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road.” Many hearts around us are broken and in need of love, hearts that are very close to us in our daily lives. Many around us, those we live with and those we work with, the person beside you on the train or the bus, the person in the queue behind and before you, they all need and want to experience the love that we have within us, the love of him that we keep alive, the experience of the Resurrection that burns away the shadows of the tomb. Let us who carry the beads of the Rosary as our daily companion walk along the roads of life with those around us and closest to us with those who find it hard to accept that God is alive in their life, let us listen to them and allow the stranger of Emmaus to use us, to bring that living message that the cross is not the end, but only the beginning and that life issues from the empty tomb. May we who keep the memory of the Lord alive, walk joyfully and allow that which burns within us to shed light on the pathways of this life for others. Let us face the Sun rising and turn our backs to its setting. May our families and friends and those we live and work with recognise the person of Jesus in each one of us as we walk along the path of life and the lives of others. May those who are broken like the bread at Emmaus find healing, strength and life through the memory we carry in our hearts and the mysteries we contemplate at the feet of the Virgin of the Rosary.
Fr. John H. Walsh, O.P.