While we are accustomed to hearing the Easter story as recorded in the Gospel of John there is a second option which may be read in the afternoon on Easter Sunday. This Gospel, Luke 24:13-35, recounts the story of two of Jesus’ disciples who, on “that very day,” were walking along the road from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus. While they walked they were talking about everything that had happened and debating what it might mean when they were approached by a stranger. And you probably know the rest of the story. These two people, Cleopas and his companion, had been Jesus’ disciples, yet they did not recognize him after the Resurrection. I especially like this story because it feels so familiar. The resurrected Christ, the Anointed One, walking, unrecognized, among us.
Years ago, when I was in grade school, we used to have bomb raid drills. To young people today that sounds like ancient history but by 2021, when the last international nuclear forces treaty is due to be renewed, we could find ourselves needing more than a school desk to protect us, which is why students at Notre Dame, Georgetown and Boston College have come together with the U.S. Bishops’ Conference to explore the ethics of nuclear weapons.
Also, according to a recent United Nations report, more than 2 billion people worldwide don’t have access to potable water. It’s no wonder, then, that villagers in Third World countries celebrate when, with the help of volunteers from around the world, they are able at last to draw clean water from newly-dug wells.
Volunteers provide aid to hurricane victims. Military personnel and police defend of our country and its citizens. Firefighters run into burning buildings. Helicopter pilots ferry patients in need of emergency medical care. Teachers teach and farmers farm. Jesus continues to fulfill his promise to be with us always but, like those disciples on the road to Emmaus, we often fail to recognize him.
Christ has risen and walks with us. Do we invite him in? Or do we just keep walking?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.