One of the authors who has influenced my work for the past 14 years is Margaret Wheatley. She wrote that if you want to restore an organization to health, you must reconnect it to its identity.
I have married this basic principle with Ignatius’ self-awareness and self-acceptance, leading to the spiritual freedom to choose to commit, and together I placed these within the framework of the narrative.
This Sunday’s Gospel, the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, fits perfectly into this framework, one very similar to Joseph Campbell’s hero journey or the mono-myth. It is interesting to note that in the Gospel, we have the hero’s journey on two levels: the journey of the two disciples and the journey of Christ, with the latter shedding light on the former.
The story of the two disciples on the road is our story. It allows us not just to juxtapose, but to superimpose our story on the story of Christ.
As one of our scripture professors in the seminary put it, the Gospel is the story of a journey from faith to faith—Christ’s faith in his Father that inspires the journey of faith in the apostles, which in turn inspires the story of our journey of faith.
Today’s story of companionship on the road to Emmaus beautifully shows us the power of remembering, remembering the story that keeps “hearts burning within.”
The story is remembered in the two disciples feeling down and defeated after the crucifixion. Because of this, they did not immediately recognize the Risen Lord journeying with them. It needed a story, the remembering, to reconnect them to “what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”
The story of Christ, the promised Messiah, was retold and remembered in order for the two disciples to reconnect to their own story, why they left Emmaus to follow Christ.
It was Christ who proclaimed that God’s promise is to be fulfilled in him, in his passion, cross and resurrection. He is the fulfillment of God’s promised salvation; a story which, at certain points, was dimmed by setbacks and challenges, by ways unfamiliar to man, but was still about the fulfillment of the divine plan.
The remembering makes the two regain perspective— “Were not our hearts burning inside us?”—and with this inspiration renewed and reignited, they run back to Jerusalem. They reconnect to why they followed Christ, believing he is the promised Messiah, the reason why they left home to follow the dream of salvation.
“…We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel,” and it all ended on the cross—or so they thought. Because of this they completely lost perspective, and the transforming moment of victory became a source of a sense of defeat and loss.
Then Christ reconnects them. “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
One of the stories I often share in recollections and talks is the story behind the song “Blessings,” written and sung by Laura Story. The song was the fruit of her experience.
Soon after she and her husband, Martin, got married, he suffered from a brain tumor. He has recovered since, but it took a while, and to this day Laura Story cares for his special needs.
She initial struggled with it, questioning and all: “Why didn’t you just fix it, God? You’re all powerful and all loving—just fix it.” As she shared her woes with others, her sister told her once, “You know, I think the detour is actually the road.”
This gave her perspective, and reflecting on the experience, she wrote her story in the song, “Blessings.”
“We pray for blessings, we pray for peace; comfort for family, protection while we sleep. We pray for healing, for prosperity. We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering. And all the while, You hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.
Mercies in disguise
“’Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise…
“What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy? What if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights are your mercies in disguise?”
God’s mercies in disguise: these are the Cross and Resurrection. In the midst of the “sleepless nights… the trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights,”our failed hopes and disappointments, in the midst of our own journeys back to our Emmauses, he comes to us.
He walks with us on the road. The Risen Lord is our companion on the road; in, with and through him we remember our story, our lives are reframed, our road ahead becomes clear, and with “hearts burning inside us,” we live lives of greater meaning, greater love and greater service. This is our true story.
“If you carry this story within you, it is time to tell it, wherever you are, to whomever you meet.” (Margaret Wheatley, “Finding Our Way”)—CONTRIBUTED