What is the most effective way to go fast through heavy traffic? Have you ever thought about it? I’m sure that all of you have some moments when you find yourself caught in a stream of traffic. Is that your everyday experience? If yes, may God’s peace be with you… When I lived in the Bronx and I had to commute to Drew University in Madison, I frequently got stuck in a traffic jam right before the George Washington Bridge, sometimes, for more than an hour. At that time, I seriously thought that I better leave my car right there and walk home. It would be much faster.
In France, an interesting idea contest drew people’s attention. This contest asked people one question: How to go fast through traffic? Many nonsensical ideas were shared. (1) “Take a flight.” “Run.” “Don’t even think about going.” Do you know what was the idea that won the first prize? It was, “go with someone you love.” What do you think about this idea? Very true…isn’t it? When we are on the way to somewhere with someone we love, we don’t recognize how fast time goes by. We feel like even the distance gets magically shortened. Stress and worries are relieved when we enjoy the moments of chitchatting, sharing life, and even singing. And you know what? This simple idea works so well not just when we go through traffic, but also when we go through hardships of life. With the one we love, we can get over turbulent times in our lives better and easier.
Today’s Gospel reading delivers us the story of two disciples of Jesus walking down the road to Emmaus. It’s not heavy traffic that they experience on the road, but it’s their heavy hearts. The seven-mile road to Emmaus seems so long because just three days ago, they lost Jesus—their friend and teacher they so dearly loved. His disgraceful death as a criminal was too shocking for them. Although they heard in the morning from the women that he was resurrected, they can’t believe it easily. It’s too confusing. So they just want to go out for a walk and have some time away from Jerusalem, from the tragedy.
On the road to Emmaus, however, the two disciples encounter the painful reality…they are now walking a road “without Jesus.” For three years, they traveled “with Jesus.” It was never an easy journey, but “with Jesus,” the journey was joyful and fruitful. They were in full of hope for new kingdom because they were in good company of the beloved Jesus. But now, the farther they walk on the road, the deeper they feel the absence of Jesus in their lives. They might weep bitter tears. Their heads might be down. They might shuffle and kick some dusts and stones.
But at that moment, a strange person approaches the two disciples. Going to Emmaus with him, they feel that their footsteps get lighter and their travel gets easier as they listen to this person explaining why Jesus had to die and live again. So when they get to Emmaus, they grab him to stay with them a little longer. At the dinner table, this person takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the disciples. Then their eyes are opened and recognize the person who actually is Jesus. But Jesus suddenly vanishes from their sight. The disciples say to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”(Luke 24:32) It must be a moment of grace. The resurrected Jesus personally comes to the disciples and gives them the confidence that even death cannot take away the faithful company of Jesus from them. And now, they are deeply aware of the continuous presence of Jesus in their lives until the end of their journey.
On your lives’ ways, do you sometimes feel like you are going through endless traffic and you are always stuck at a red light? Does your smooth sailing too often get slowed down at some roadblocks and accidents? So you are exhausted and frustrated? And you feel like no one can ease your agonies and understand your situation? If yes, today’s Gospel story is talking right to you, especially to you… because it simply delivers us the good news that the one who walked with these struggling disciples on the road to Emmaus is now with us on the way of each one of us. The risen Lord becomes our intimate travel mate on our ways.
So when we go through some traffic in our lives, why don’t we take a look around? Our eyes may be opened by grace, and we may find the resurrected Jesus inside and beside us. Seriously, why don’t we intentionally take time and look around with confidence? Jesus may be seating on the passenger seat to watch over us. Or he may be holding the steering wheel with us to guide us. I believe that his faithful companionship and steadfast love will warm and even burn our hearts. Jesus will ignite a new light in our hearts so that we may endure our hardships better. And with this Jesus who travels with us, no matter where we go, as an individual or as a church, we can get through…get through challenges fast and even joyfully.
The Bible says, after they met Jesus, the disciples immediately “got up and returned to Jerusalem” (Luke 24:33). Why? It’s because they couldn’t keep this joy just in them! The disciples had to share this wonderful news with their fellows in Jerusalem, who are still mourning. So they go back to Jerusalem with joy and exuberance, and from there, they take on so many other roads for the rest of their lives to share the good news, “The Lord has risen indeed” (Luke 24:34).
Sisters and brothers in Christ, please remember that as soon as we gratefully recognize the enduring presence of Jesus on our “road to Emmaus,” we are also called to walk “the road to Jerusalem and beyond” to proclaim, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he’s been with me!” What kind of ways are you walking today? Are you going through some traffic, some hardships? Are you walking down on your road to Emmaus? Then, with confidence, take a look around and find Jesus inside and beside you. Jesus, who died and has risen for you and your new life, will surely be there. He will be more than happy to travel with you, walk with you, suffer with you, share joys with you on the road. But he also wants us to walk our own way to Jerusalem and beyond to share the good news.
As Easter people, let us remember the resurrected Jesus today and his faithful company in our lives. Let us remember that we are called to witness his loving presence in our lives. Jesus promises to his disciples, “I will never leave you orphaned. I am coming to you. My Spirit will abide in you” (John 14:18). And he has kept this promise for all his disciples. May the risen Christ closely walk with us today and graciously reveal his presence to us. May he be always with us on our road to Emmaus, on our road to Jerusalem and beyond, and on any road we take. Amen.