John Dominic Crossan has said, “Emmaus never happened and Emmaus always happens.”
You see, the post-resurrection story of the walk to the city of Emmaus where Jesus appears to two followers, is mostly likely a parable and not a factual story. The stories of Jesus in bodily form walking, talking and eating with folks are not found in any of the earliest Christian writings (Paul and Mark), but only appear 25-50 years after Jesus death. So, Emmaus never really happened.
But Emmaus always happens. In the ordinary moments of life – walking and talking with a friend, sharing a meal, holding a child, working in the garden, enjoying the sunset – we suddenly have flashes of insight into the Divine. And if we are particularly astute, we realize that the Divine was with us all the time, we just weren’t paying attention.
We talk about our God as a God of the unexpected and a God of surprises. But why? If we know God is everywhere and with us all the time, why are we surprised when we suddenly sense that presence? Perhaps it is simply because we are too focused on other things. The two people on the road to Emmaus were too caught up in their own grief and confusion that they couldn’t see clearly who it was who walked with them until he made his signature move of blessing and breaking the bread. How much do we miss because we aren’t practicing awareness and attentiveness to the flow of the Divine underpinning all the ordinary stuff of life? We believe we are awake and alive to all of life, but are we? Perhaps we are functionally asleep when it comes to spirituality and paying attention to the Divine.
The only way to change this is for us to change. We need to expect that God is moving in any given circumstance and so move to align ourselves with that movement. Asking questions like: if I were acting out of love at this moment, what would it look like? can help us move as one with the Divine.
Yes, God walks the road with us all the time… Emmaus always happens. God, help us to pay better attention!