Two disciples of Jesus walk away from Jerusalem, sad and disappointed. Their hopes of rebirth of the great kingdom of Israel have been dashed. The great prophet, "mighty in deed and word before God and all the people," has been killed.
Jesus walks beside the disciples unrecognized and, at first, just listens to their words, their selfish complaints. They do not pity the Crucified, they pity themselves. "But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel." They are egocentric, like all of us.
Jesus, who knows our broken nature, does not seem to mind that. He walks with them in full acceptance of their limitations. He is there not to condemn but to explain because they are "foolish and slow of heart." Infinitely patient and gentle, he uses the language of the Bible to explain why the Messiah had to suffer and die – to save us.
Their hearts begin to respond to God's word and they feel them "burning," almost physically. It is while he is breaking bread, sharing himself, that they recognize him. In joy, free from fear, they turn back and run to Jerusalem.
'Their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus.'
The lives of ordinary men and women are full of disappointments. Many of them, especially those in our personal lives, we have brought upon ourselves.
Some of our once-sweet grandchildren, still smiling to us from their Communion photographs, have become aggressive and anticlerical, worshippers of pleasure, rock and violence. We would blame them and "that wicked world," but hey, let's look at what we and/or their parents, our own children, gave them in the way of example.
Many of those who once had so carefully planned their splendid weddings, who even "did the Church marriage" and exchanged vows with rapture, have separated after a few years "because love is no longer."
The same doting parents who, holding hands, used to sing sweet lullabies above the crib of their first-born, soon have figured out how to stay being "Mummy" and "Daddy" without being married any longer – and so have shared their offspring as you share a cabin, bike or boat.
There is parenting on alternate weeks, or weekends, miles away from each other, new Mummy's boyfriends and Daddy's girlfriends, all "fun to be with."
A new generation of youth wants nothing to do with Church, God, marriage – and also with us, old hypocrites. Is there any hope for us and for them?
Yes, there is a hope and no other. The hope is in the Word that we should start really listening to, with all our attention, with knowledge that our lives depend on it – like the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
The hope is in the breaking of the Bread, still accessible, despite the shrinking pool of priests. If we are contrite, if we begin to see clearly our foolishness and "slowness of hearts" – our sins – we will be able to recognize Jesus, our life and salvation in the Real Presence.
We need to beg Jesus, like the disciples did: "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over."
The "day" of our civilization is almost over. Without Jesus, night will set in.