Sacramentum explores the sacraments of the Catholic Church – the depths of their meaning, history, and, above all, the impact they have on each of us in our daily faith lives. In this reflection, Sr. Connie Harkin of the School Sisters of Notre Dame reflects on the “road to Emmaus” story in the Gospel of Luke, and what it can tell us about our own journey through the Easter season.

Many years ago, two very good friends from the same class at school decided to go for a walk. Perhaps it would be better to call it a hike, as this exercise would take them six miles (in those days, distance was measured in miles) out of town.

The venture would consist of going up the elevated extension of Main Street and then further towards their destination along a path of the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario – a path now referred to as the Bruce Trail. The challenge of such a hike was one of their free choosing and they intended to succeed.

As they climbed and prodded along the winding roads, there were moments of silence and moments of discussion. They found time to share and reflect upon what was happening in their lives. It was not long before they found themselves sharing the sadness which had entered their young lives. Leaving town for a few hours, the two friends discovered an opportunity to relinquish what had been concerning their hearts respectively. Unknown to each of them, though they had been friends for a long time, this was to be a sacred moment to express the pain, the emptiness which had just entered their lives and the lives of their families.

However, they were also able to share times of happy, delightful memories which brought them both joy and laughter. This was not to be a journey of just doom and gloom.

As they approached their destination, they were overcome by the view that was to greet them. They were able to see what one cannot see as one drives by in a car. Across a vast and expansive landscape, they could see luscious green fields, ponds, majestic trees, beauty all around, a scene that one could only see from the rocky look-out upon which they stood. It would seem that God had painted a portrait of His creation just for them – always to remember and to treasure. It was a view that could stir one’s heart and soul to shout aloud, “Our God is an awesome God!”

And indeed, this remains a treasured memory, because I remember being there, as it was I who was there with my friend.

Art depicting the road to Emmaus story as told in Luke Chapter 24

We are presently in the Easter Season of the liturgical year. One of the Gospel readings we will soon hear also details a “walk” which two friends set out to do.

Prior to their walk, they had experienced their own tragedy and sadness, as they had witnessed the death of One in whom they had great hopes. They had thought of Jesus as the promised Messiah, the one who would redeem Israel and liberate the people from oppression. They were saddened and brokenhearted, for it seemed that this was not going to happen, and a devastating fate had befallen this Person in whom there was so much hope. Leaving Jerusalem and the sorrow they had experienced there behind seemed to them to be the only solution.

So, with heavy hearts, they then chose to leave Jerusalem and walk towards Emmaus, a village several miles away. While they were walking, the risen and resurrected Jesus approached them, but they did not recognize Him. As they continued to walk, they were surprised to hear how this seeming “stranger” was not aware of what had happened in recent days.

The two friends retold how some women had visited the tomb where Jesus had been laid, only to find it empty. Upon returning, these women were eager to tell the disciples about the vision they saw – a vision of angels who stood by the empty tomb and proclaimed to them that Jesus is alive. For some of those who heard this story, it was considered to be idle chatter of the women. Yet Peter the apostle, along with one of the eleven, proceeded to go to the tomb and were amazed to find it empty.

As it was nearing nightfall, the “stranger” went ahead of the two travelers as if to go on without them.

But they invited Him to share their evening meal. So He did. And when He took the bread, blessed, and broke it, their eyes were opened to who it was that had walked with them – they were in the presence of the risen Lord. But He then vanished from their sight. They admitted to one another how their hearts had burned within them as they had listened to Him open up the Scriptures and reveal their innermost meaning.

Without hesitation, they proceeded to return to Jerusalem to share the Good News alongside the eleven apostles and their companions – “The Lord is risen indeed.” What a revelation they had experienced!

A Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once stated, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Recently, a phrase that has taken on even more significance for me, and I hope it can ring true for you, is “Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:1). Indeed, now we are in the great season of Easter; we are all on our own walk through this most joyous liturgical season, with many days of solemnity and celebration ahead – all in honour of the Good News imparted to us.

God gives us each moment of our lives. He walks with us on our journey. Let us therefore use each moment well, seeing it as an opportunity to grow in God’s love and to share that with those whom we meet along our travels. Let us, then, make this Easter Walk and proclaim with joy-filled and peace-filled hearts: “Christ is Risen! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”

Sr. Connie Harkin
April 2024