Jan and I have just returned from a two week pilgrimage to the Holy Land, combined with a course of study at St. George's College, Jerusalem, The Palestine of Jesus. There is far too much we experienced to attempt a recap in this column. The journaling I did, which I sent by electronic mail back to the clergy in the diocese, printed out to 17 full pages. Journaling resulted in an unanticipated benefit for me. Sitting down at night and recalling the experiences of the day caused me to process all that I had just encountered such that the jumble of sights, sounds, and feelings from the day gained a more useful shape in my mind. But, I never got a chance to do the last day, our trip to Emmaus.
Did we really go to Emmaus? Maybe we did, maybe we didn't. You see, there are at least four places that have some claim to being Emmaus from Luke 24. From the Gospel, there isn't really anything particularly distinguishing about Emmaus except for being about 60 stadia (7.5 miles) from Jerusalem. The writings of Josephus confirm the existence of Emmaus, but don't really help us pinpoint it today. We went to Abu Gosh, the location today of a 12th century (crusader period) monastery with claims to being Emmaus. It is 7.5 miles from Jerusalem. However, there is a little village named Motsa that lies 30 stadia from Jerusalem. Linguistically, Semitic languages have tended to put the letter E in front of words like Motsa, so Motsa becomes E-Motsa, which in Greek would be E-Maus. Luke wrote in Greek. This is interesting, but not very important.
In Luke, two apostles are walking to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection and encounter Jesus. One is Cleopas, the brother of Joseph, thus Jesus' uncle. Who is the second one? I've always envisioned another man, but could it have been Mary, Jesus' aunt, Cleopas' wife? If so, can you imagine the conversation they were having!
When they arrived at Emmaus, Jesus, still unrecognized, made as if to continue his journey, but they begged him to stay with them saying that the day was nearly spent. Only after breaking bread together did Jesus' identity become known to them, and then he disappeared. There is a mystical element in this story that tells us something of Jesus' resurrected state. He can walk, talk, eat, and he can be touched, but he is also master of the physical world. He appears suddenly and disappears the same way. He is not recognized if that is his will.
What do you think would have happened if the two had not invited Jesus to stay with them? Do you think Jesus would have kept going and found someone else to appear to? I think so. Jesus needed to be invited to the table. And just like it was on the road to Emmaus, we need to invite Jesus into our lives. Jesus doesn't force himself upon us. And just as we must invite Jesus into our lives, we have a responsibility to invite those who do not know Jesus to a place where they can learn about him.
Lord God, master of the universe, help us to have sufficient courage to invite the stranger to your table. Amen
Your faithful servant,
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