One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o"clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, "Look at us." And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, "I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk." Then he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?" He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him." Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
The Emmaus story is a living paradigm for Christian discipleship. It strongly suggests that if we travel life's journey with others, sharing our faith and our doubts with them, Christ will be with us, opening our minds to the truth. Just as he gave them deeper insight, so he does for all who listen to him. His promise remains, "I am with you, always!" In those early years they also had many proofs of his powerful presence, as Acts illustrates by various miracle stories. Today's is told with great satisfaction, dramatising Peter's healing powers when he called on Jesus' name. Not only is the crippled man cured, he jumps up, begins to walk about, and then enters the temple with them, "leaping and praising God." The people's awe and amazement gives Peter a chance to explain the source of his healing gift: he has it from the risen Christ, now more even powerfully effective than he was during his mortal life.
In truth, we are all on an Emmaus journey, a camino or pilgrimage of faith. We may be perplexed by events in our own lives, disappointments, loss of a job, failure, collapse of a relationship, shattered dreams, betrayal by friends. We are certainly very, very deeply disturbed by things that are happening in our own Church. We are deeply disturbed by the lack of peace in our world, the injustices of society, worries about the future. Everything, indeed, may seem very, very dark. And we may feel as helpless and as hopeless as those two disciples did.
If so, we need community. We cannot fight depression alone. We cannot make sense of things alone. We need to lean on one another for support. We need to search the Scriptures together to see what answers they may have for us. And then we can go out and spread this good news.
We tend to walk away from situations and places that have painful associations for us. Sometimes that can be the right thing to do, but perhaps not always. The gospel shows two disciples walking away from Jerusalem, because the city now had very negative associations for them. It was just outside the city that the one they had been following, to whom they had given their lives, was crucified. Jerusalem was the city that killed not only Jesus but also all the hopes they had invested in him. They wanted out of it as quickly as possible. Yet, they should really have stayed put, for the Lord wanted them to remain on in that city.
Although they didn't realize it at the time, not along was Jerusalem the city where Jesus was put to death; it was also the city where he was raised from the dead and it would be the city where the risen Lord would pour out his Holy Spirit upon the disciples, the city from which his message would begin to be spread to the world. The Lord journeyed with these two disciples to help them to see that there was more to the city of Jerusalem than they realized. It is often the case in our own lives that the places we try to get away from, when we see them as dreary and dark are the very places where the seeds of new life are to be found, and where God is mysteriously but powerfully at work in the darkness.