One of my favorite Easter stories is the encounter with the Risen Christ at Emmaus. We made sure to go to Emmaus when I went to the Holy Land. Well, two Emmauses, anyway. There are at least two others we didn’t get a chance to visit. Four towns claiming to be the spot: Amwas, Abu Ghosh, Mozah and el-Qubeibeh—not one with any better historical claim than another. And it’s just as well. We were never meant to venerate a literal Emmaus.
To paraphrase John Dominic Crossan, Emmaus probably never happened. Emmaus always happens. It’s an encounter for all times, in all places. It’s a strange and mystical story showing what it means to have our eyes opened to the presence of Christ in the simplest of things: in a walk with a friend, in the midst of mourning, in the sharing of table, in the breaking of bread together.
Thomas Merton writes,
A true encounter with Christ liberates something in us, a power we did not know we had, a hope, a capacity for life, resilience, an ability to bounce back when we thought we were completely defeated, a capacity to grow and change, a power of creative transformation.
The message of Easter is simple: new life is ours. Transformation is possible. And the Divine breaks in and reminds us of that in the simplest of things we so often take for granted: spring at the end of winter, light after the time of darkness, healing and recovery after destruction, singing after sorrow, forgiveness and mercy after alienation, and new beginnings after failure and defeat. God gives us Easter after Good Friday, and along our Emmaus road the Risen Christ is revealed to us.