Third Sunday of Easter
ACTS 2:14, 22-33
1 PT 1:17-21
LK 24:13-35

Just before Easter, I stopped at the grocery store, and as I was checking-out, the friendly high schooler, who was bagging my groceries, asked me what I was doing for Easter. I responded that I would be at church and then I would be going over by family. I followed my answer by asking him what he was doing for Easter. His answer was right to the point, “I’m going to hide.”

His honesty startled me and I knew I had to try follow-up, “Hide, who are you trying to hide from?” He responded, “Family is coming over … they ask me too many questions.” I wanted to speak to him more, but realized that I might become “the person” that asked him too many questions.  I let him know I would pray for him and moved on so the next person could go through the line.

That image of wanting to hide or run away from something is an image that has stuck with me. For different reasons, many of us wish that we could go into hiding for a moment to get away from a situation or a particular person. The two disciples who we meet in the Gospel today are doing just that. They were followers of Jesus Christ, and after his death and burial in Jerusalem, we find them not in Jerusalem with the other disciples who had remained there, but, on the road to Emmaus which is seven miles from Jerusalem. In the midst of a crisis situation, they were practicing their own form of hiding by leaving the place where everyone else was. This type of slipping away can be compared to what society has named the “Irish Goodbye.” This is a strategy where in the midst of a party instead of going around and saying goodbye to everyone personally, a person looks to slip away without anyone knowing that they’ve left.

In the spiritual life, there are times when sometimes the best thing that we can do is to try to hide. An example would be a day where we know we woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and when we open our mouth, the best version of ourselves will not be coming out. This is a time to try and avoid conversations that we know might not bring out the best in us.

That being said, each of us has our own inner Jerusalem. In this context, our own inner Jerusalem is either a person, or a situation, that represents a trial that we face or have faced. Often times, our mindset is to try and avoid it or hide from it. The challenge in this situation is that when we don’t face our own inner Jerusalem, we don’t experience the power of Jesus Christ. The disciple’s last memory of Jerusalem was one of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. They had not yet experienced for themselves the reality that the pain of the crucifixion had been trumped by the joy of the resurrection.

The good news is that the story of the appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus reveals that it’s impossible to hide from Jesus. As the two disciples were going away from Jerusalem, Jesus walks right alongside them without them realizing it. It’s impossible to sneak away without Jesus noticing. They thought they were the ones trying to hide, but in reality, Jesus was the one who was in disguise. Jesus walks alongside of them “opening the Scriptures” for them. Jesus wants to show them that death and sorrow never have the last word. Jesus sought to replace the horrible memories of the crucifixion with the healing power of the resurrection.

It’s interesting to note that it wasn’t until the two disciples formally asked Jesus to stay with them that he was revealed to them. Jesus walked with them the entire time, but never forced his identity upon them, he waited for them to extend hospitality towards him. Jesus waits for us in the midst of our own woundedness to welcome him especially in the Eucharist and those who are suffering. The disciple’s journey is complete as they then come out of hiding and return to the place they started — Jerusalem.

For reflection:
– What situation in your life is your “Jerusalem” that you’re either running from or towards?
– What was a time in your life when you encountered Jesus in an unlikely setting?
– How can you better recognize Jesus present in the Eucharist?

(Fr. Widder is pastor of St. Clement and Holy Name of Jesus parishes, Sheboygan.)