By Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.
The “Journey to Emmaus” is one of the most well-known stories in the New Testament. It is a vivid story that we can truly connect with. Two downtrodden disciples leaving Jerusalem…an encounter with a stranger to whom the disciples tell the story of Jesus’ death…the stranger relating to the disciples the whole of salvation history…and the climax of recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread. It is truly a powerful passage.
As a homilist, I’ve reflected and preached on this passage numerous times. Each time I highlight a different aspect of the story. Sometimes it is the recognition of Christ in the breaking of the bread, sometimes it is the burning of the disciples’ hearts. But today, in our present situation, my mind and heart are drawn to the image of the “journey on the road.” The two disciples are leaving Jerusalem and traveling to Emmaus. They are going from one place to another place.
In this time of “stay-at-home orders” and “lock downs,” we may be longing for a journey of any kind. Movement is a vital component of our Christian life. Scripture is loaded with stories of journeys: Abraham, Moses, Joseph, the journey that led to the Nativity, Jesus’ journey up to Jerusalem, the journey of the first apostles, and the journeys of Paul.
And think about all the journeys we take in our faith, such as the annual journeys of Lent and Advent. There is the journey of coming to faith through RCIA. The formation journey that we all are on, as we move into a deeper and deeper relationship with our God.
The concept of “journey” is rooted in our faith, in part, because we associate it with the idea of progress. As Christians we are on a journey to God. That is what we are doing here on earth. While on the journey we strive to build up the Kingdom of God. As we progress, we grow closer and closer to God. As St. Thomas Aquinas taught, we come from God and we return to God. Fundamentally, life is that journey.
Thankfully, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we do not make this journey alone. We are joined by others who help us when we stumble or take a wrong turn. But most importantly, we are joined by Christ. The First Letter of St. Peter directs us to “conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.”
The “stay-at-home orders” will come to an end, eventually. The journey will continue. Through our redemption in the Precious Blood of Christ, we will grow ever closer to our final union with God.
The V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., is the provincial director of the Cincinnati Province. Previously, he served as the secretary general of the worldwide Congregation and was also in ministry at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., of which he is an alumnus.