Road Trip

In the Name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.

Those of us who live in New York will sometimes say that, “I’ve just got to get out of the city.”

This can mean anything from going to visit friends in New Jersey to taking a vacation to India! What matters is leaving the noise and hassle of New York life behind for a while, and going somewhere else!

Books like Jack Kerouac’s novel, On the Road show the value of getting away. When you go to unknown places, you open yourself up to new people and new experiences. You never know what you’ll find around the next corner, but you know that you’ll learn things you would never have discovered at home.

Today’s Gospel is about getting away. It’s about an Easter road trip. Two disciples of Jesus are travelling to the village of Emmaus outside of Jerusalem when they meet a stranger. Because it is Easter Day, the disciples tell the stranger about the reports they have heard that Christ’s tomb was discovered to be empty. They also tell him that Jesus himself had been seen by some of the disciples.

The stranger offers an interpretation from Scripture that explains the events of the morning. For him, the empty tomb and the appearances of the Risen Christ could be understood as fulfilling the teaching of “Moses and the prophets.”

The stranger’s ideas are so intriguing that the disciples invite him to stay with them when they stop for the night. But a surprise is in store for them. When they begin dinner, the disciples are amazed to discover that the stranger they have been talking to is Jesus himself!

Apparently, when Christ rose from the dead, his appearance was transformed. So, even though he had been with the disciples, he was, the text says, only “made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

Now these two disciples might also have seen Jesus if they hadn’t taken their trip – if they had remained in Jerusalem with their fellow Christians. Jesus also appeared to most of the disciples when they were gathered in the Upper Room.

But the text emphasizes the importance of the journey to Emmaus. Luke reports that when the disciples got back and saw their friends, “they told what had happened to them on the road…”

The road trip mattered. Moving from your usual haunts to somewhere new gives you a perspective you can’t find at home. You don’t have to travel a long way to reinvigorate yourself. What counts is movement.

Consider, for example, the simple activity of walking. Besides being good for you physically, walking can be a valuable spiritual “exercise.”

I often take a walk in the morning, before the office opens; sometimes, I pray during my walks. I find that the time I spend strolling along in the fresh air clears my soul at the same time that it clears my head! Like the disciples in the story, I get a new perspective; I find that I’m better able to detect what God is saying to me.

Yet for any journey beyond the ordinary to be valuable, we need to pay close attention to what’s happening around us. We can’t just see what we want to see.

Have you ever been on vacation in some wonderful spot, and you meet some fellow tourists who refuse to really experience the places they’re in?

They visit a local café, for example, and they taste the coffee. What’s the first comment they make? They say, how much better the coffee is in their hometown! Or think of those tourists who walk along a beautiful beach, and they can only say how it reminds them of a beach near their home—and, of course, their local beach is much prettier than the one that’s in front of them!

Notice that, in the story of the encounter on the road to Emmaus, the disciples only figure out what’s really going on when they stop talking! When they become silent for the blessing before the meal, they put their own concerns aside, and they see who their companion really is.

Of course, we also have to admit that road trips won’t solve all our problems. If we’ve got inner baggage, we’ll drag that baggage along with us, wherever we go. If we’re angry about life, we’ll still be angry — even if we’re basking on a pristine beach in Tahiti!

Yet, in fact, as Christians we don’t have to travel to reap the benefits of leaving ordinary life behind. In a few minutes, we will recite the Baptismal Covenant. This is a series of questions and answers that provide a summary of belief for those who are baptized.

When we say this Covenant, we commit ourselves, among other things, to continuing “in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.” Just as the disciples gained a new closeness to the power of God when they broke bread, so we, too, receive an intimate communion with the divine when we share the consecrated bread of the Eucharist.

While we can’t get out of the city when we feel like it, we can always find that the sacraments allow God to enrich our interior selves.

And after a winter that was long and cold and dark, we need to be lifted up. We need a spiritual road trip! We need the springtime renewal that God gives us when we share in the new life of the Risen Christ.

Amen.


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