Jesus came and walked with them,
but their eyes were held and they did not recognise him… [14-18]
Notice what is happening here. These two disciples are totally absorbed in what they’re talking about when they suddenly become aware of someone walking alongside them. They have no idea who this stranger is, and if we are to be with them —and learn with them—it is important that we don’t know either. It’s enough to notice the effect it has on them: they stop talking, and when he asks them what they’ve been talking about, ‘the two stood still, looking sad’. That simple question, asked by a stranger, stops them in their tracks and takes them to a new level of awareness—behind all their words there is a deep sadness, which shows in their faces.
That brief glimpse into what they are feeling, takes them to the heart of what is troubling them; it’s not about the surface detail of all the terrible things that have happened, but about what it all means…or does it mean anything? The stranger’s question strikes home in this way, and for a moment they can only stop talking and be silently aware of the weight of their feelings. It is an invitation to them to tell him what they have been talking about, but he will help them to do that in a deeper way, as they re-live the experience and register its personal emotional impact.
What is this like for us today?
What if a stranger came, clearly interested in what we’re talking about but apparently knowing nothing about what’s been happening—or not happening—in the Church? How would we react/respond?
- Would we be like these two disciples? They were astonished that anyone could fail to know ‘what has been happening in Jerusalem these past few days’. But before that they are suddenly aware of what they’re feeling—what really matters is not what has happened in Jerusalem but how deeply they have been affected by it: sad, angry, confused, near despair… ‘Where is God?’That may be a place where we can stop too. Before saying any more about what has happened, or what it is that ‘makes us’ sad or angry, or whatever, in the Church: let the stranger’s question put us in touch with ourselves.
- Where am I in this story [of what is happening in the Church]?
- And what has happened, or is happening in me, as the story unfolds?
- Why does it bother me so much? Why does it ‘weigh’ on me in the way it does?
Milestone, Forth ad Clyde Canal, MMB.