The Emmaus disciples encountered the Risen Lord and they strongly urged Him ‘Stay With Us’. Jesus wants to be with us all the times but we need to ask the question: how do I stay with Him? The passage from Luke 24:13-25 gives us some hints. It is suggested it that you would read it first.
The so called ‘chiastic structure’ was a literary style used in ancient times and so we also find it in the bible. Note from the diagram below that there are corresponding parallels in the verses. In the middle there is the fulcrum, the central point:
But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
A. They leave Jerusalem
B. They discuss disappointed
C. Jesus draws near
D. Their eyes are closed
E. Jesus teaches
Stay with us, for it is nearly evening (Luke 24:29)
E. Jesus breaks the bread
D. Their eyes are opened
C. Jesus disappears
B. They discuss excited
A. They return to Jerusalem
So the prayer ‘Stay With Us’ is essential. How are we to ‘accommodate’ the Lord, His grace and His truth in our lives? Read on.
1. WE NEED THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
They leave Jerusalem /They return Jerusalem
These disciples were so dejected that they left Jerusalem, the place which symbolises the dwelling of God with His people in the Temple. The new Temple, Jesus had risen in Jerusalem. Yet these guys missed Easter and walked away because they were so disappointed and closed within themselves.
We need the Christian community of believers where we also meet with Jesus the Risen Lord. The Catechism teaches us that the ‘Church is like a sacrament ‘a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men’ (Catechism 775). No wonder that the Scripture tells us to ‘encourage one another daily’ (Heb 3:13). When these two disciples met the Lord again, they knew that it was time to return and remain rooted in the community of believers.
We too need to belong to a community so that our faith, taught but also caught, will thrive and we will stay close to our Lord.
2. WE NEED TO BE FILLED WITH HOPE
They discuss disappointed/ They discuss excited
These two disciples had both sunk into despair. Note their words ‘we had hoped …’ It seemed that their hope had been dashed and they were not really helping each other but had become ‘brothers in misery.’ But when Jesus comes along He Word fills them with hope.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit
3. WE NEED TO EXPERIENCE GOD’S LOVE
Jesus draws near/ Jesus disappears
Jesus’s call is personal. He doesn’t see us as one of the crowd. As He walks by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus doesn’t t say ‘Hey all you fishermen, come follow me; He calls them by name.
Here too Jesus draws near the two disciples. He cares for each and every one of us. .’ God in His love always takes the first initiative towards us. This is what grace is. Soren Kierkegaard reminds us:
‘You have first loved us, O God. We speak of it in terms of history, as if you have only loved us first but a single time, rather than without ceasing. You have loved us first many times and every day and our whole life through. When we wake up in the morning and turn our soul to you … You are the first .. You have loved us first.’
Yet just as soon as he appears, He disappears. How many times people have felt the presence of God in a retreat, or a special time of prayer and yet this extraordinary feeling doesn’t seem to last. Well Jesus is teaching us the truth of this Word: We live by faith, not by sight. 2Cor. 5:7
The Presence of God is not the same as the sense of the Presence of God… It is the actual Presence, not the sensation of the Presence, of the Holy Spirit which begets Christ in us. The sense of the presence is a super-added gift for which we give thanks when it comes.
Faith is seeing with the eyes of the heart and trusting in God at all times. Even if in prayer we sometimes feel nothing, we should be assured that the Lord is with us (unless of course we have distanced ourselves through unconfessed sin). Moreover Jesus disappears in the breaking of the Bread, reminding us that He is truly still with us in the Eucharist which we also approach through faith.
4. WE NEED THE WORD OF GOD
Their eyes are closed/ Their eyes are opened
Too few Catholics are disciples of the Word of God. The Church is insisting on it. The Word was made Flesh in Jesus Christ and when we allow that Word to be revealed to us, our hearts will also burn with us. In fact the word ‘revelation’ comes from the word ‘to unveil’, a real opening of our eyes. That Word changes us, burns within us, is a ‘lamp to our feet and a light to our path’ (Ps 119:105).
Yes indeed if you want to stay with Jesus take seriously what St Paul says:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’
One can read the Gospel and understand something, but if we read the Gospel with this gift of the Holy Spirit we can understand the depth of God’s word. And this is a great gift, a great gift which we all must pray for and pray for together: Give us, Lord, the gift of understanding.
5. WE NEED TO BE DISCIPLES WHO LISTENS AND SHARES
Jesus teaches/Jesus breaks the bread
Jesus says ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10:27). The Scriptural understanding of listening with faith is to put what you hear into practise, to really follow Jesus. When Jesus teaches us through a formed conscience, through the Scripture, through the teaching of the Church, it is so that we would hear that word and obey it. Furthermore we are called to lovingly share it with others. Note that the disciples of Emmaus return to Jerusalem to share their experience. Indeed ‘faith is strengthened when it is given to others’ (Pope John Paul II).
George Maloney SJ also reminds us:
Only one who has heard God’s Word as health and life to himself can give that word as health and life to the world.
6. PRAYER – THE FULCRUM
Prayer is not part of our relationship with Jesus, it is our relationship with Jesus. Prayer takes many forms – worship, adoration, intercession and so on. Yet the prayer of petition (when we ask God for something) is one of the strongest prayers when prayed in faith within the context of a sincere walk with the Lord (as opposed to a Father Christmas relationship).
The Emmaus disciples urged Jesus strongly ‘Stay (abide) with us, for it is nearly evening’ Jesus wants to be invited. Jesus wants to stay with us. Yet he does not force himself. He is the ‘God of Invitation’ not the ‘God of Compulsion’. Jesus doesn’t want to be a stranger in our road of life. He wants to be part of of daily pilgrimage in order to lead us to eternal life. Not just as a friend, or a counsellor but Saviour and Lord. The first most important decision you will take in your life is to renew your baptism vows and invite Jesus to be the centre of your life (you may want to do this again now). The second one is just as important: that prayer will be part and parcel of your daily life.
Stay with me Lord and teach me how to stay with You. Stay with me when I have doubts, stay with me when I’m tempted, stay with me when I’m happy, stay with me when I’m sad, stay with me when I’m lonely, stay with me when I stray, stay with me when I’m anxious, stay with me till the end. Stay with me Lord.
Somewhere between where you are today and Emmaus, Jesus wants to come to you.