In Wednesday’s Gospel(Lk 24: 13-35) we experience the beautiful story of the Easter apparition of the resurrected Jesus to the two downcast disciples, probably fleeing Jerusalem, on the road to Emmaus. They share with the mysterious stranger ( our Lord ) their disappointment with the Passion and death of their Master. Jesus teaches them about the Scriptures in order to make them see why it was ” necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory.”
They urge Him to stay with them and have dinner with them. Here our Lord performs yet another Eucharistic celebration:
” And it happened that, while He was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, but He vanished from their side. Then they said to each other, ‘ Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us? ‘ ”
The story of the Road to Emmaus has a powerful, special meaning to me. In the winter of 2012 I went to my first Emmaus retreat, a phenomenon similar to Cursillo, but with a special focus on this Gospel of Luke.
In the previous year I had seen my wife Berta fall in love with God, during Fr. Vincent Youngberg’s mission in Florida. We finished our RCIA program in Bayside, N. Y. and were able to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist with God’s whole blessing. That same summer we celebrated the Sacrament of Matrimony after being civilly married for 25 years. That fall we visited the Holy Land, and we were overwhelmed by the anointing experience. We also went to our first retreats at the Passionist Spiritual Center in Jamaica, NY.
I was so full of love for God that my heart felt like a furnace . When I went to Florida to spend the winter I thought there was nothing else left to bring me closer to Jesus.
Then, at St. Matthew’s Church in Hallandale, FL, a smiling man gave me a brochure advertising the ” Emmaus Retreat Experience” coming up in a week. I had no idea what it was about . I knew about the story of Emmaus in the Gospel of Luke, but I did not have a particularly strong feeling towards it. Nevertheless I got this crazy urge to go, and my wife actually said “Yes”.
It was during this weekend retreat that I became a disciple of the Lord, a servant of God.
We were only 20 retreatants, but there must have been about 70 lay people and some priests serving us as cooks, waiters, cleaners, organizers, table companions, musicians, prayer guides, and presenters. They called themselves “Emmaus Brothers”. I could not believe the joy and love that I was seeing all around . These were disciples of Christ, like the ones in the Bible! During the fantastic meals as many as three or four of them would eat with us and share their lives with us. Jesus was sitting there at the table as we would bless the bread and share it in fellowship. The presentations were Scripture-based, and courageous in their sincerity, as they shared their painful redemptive stories with us. There was so much more. The main them was how much God loves us, no matter what we have done in our pasts.
The last night, after a presentation on faith and confidence in God, they blindfolded us and turned out the lights. Carrying flashlights one Brother after another would pick up one of us from our seats and take us on a ” trust walk” to our next culminating experience.
I was freezing in that chair as I waited to be picked up. The air conditioning was just too high. They would take one retreatant after another except me. I felt as if I was being left behind. Perhaps I was not worthy. God had forgotten about me. I was perturbed and afraid.
Then suddenly I heard a young man’s voice saying, ” Have confidence in your Emmaus Brother. Don’t be afraid.” and he held me by the elbow and guided me through the darkness, turning corners, and going down hallways and steps until we were outside. I felt the warm night breeze. There were whispers all around and even fireworks somewhere in the city. Suddenly I felt this great peace. I was sure that Jesus Himself was holding me by the other arm. I felt His closeness. I felt His love. I just knew that He would never leave me.
Many more wonderful, holy things happened which I cannot talk about. All I know is that when the retreat ended our hearts were surely burning. We had all cried and laughed together that weekend. We had become like family, the family of Jesus. Like the two disciples in the Gospel we ran back into our lives to announce to the world that Christ lives ! I knew that I would always serve Him, even unto exhaustion. I joined the Brotherhood under the auspices of St. Joseph’s Parish in North Miami Beach, and served on ten retreats over the next four years in various capacities.
Back in NY, along with my wife Berta, I looked for every opportunity to serve the Kingdom of God. Some wonderful Passionist priests have advised me to slow down a little and ” take it easier “. I’m not that young.
I keep in touch with my Emmaus Brothers in FL and surely miss them. By the way, when we meet each other somewhere, our greeting and our motto is
“JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN !”
” HE IS RISEN INDEED! ”