It’s a long road to Emmaus. I walk it each and every day. Like the two disciples in today’s Gospel reading, I would love to run into Jesus during my travels. But I fear that as Celopas and his friend did, I won’t recognize Jesus.
I was thinking about the story of the Road to Emmaus as I traveled back to Austin from Florida at the end of spring break a couple of weeks ago. Did I encounter Jesus on the way home but did not realize it? Perhaps Jesus could have been any one of these strangers I ran into along the way:
• The airline employee who though not particularly friendly, tagged our checked luggage efficiently.
• The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent who randomly selected me to swab my hands for explosives.
• The other TSA agent who said, “Come here, princess” to encourage my three-year-old daughter to walk through the metal detector by herself.
• The airport store cashier who very slowly helped us purchase two very expensive bottles of juice for my daughters.
• All the men in line for the next available toilet in the airport bathroom.
• The airline agent at the gate next to ours who had to explain to his customers that their flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico was going to be delayed.
• The flight attended who had a hard time demonstrating how to use the life preserver because the straps were tangled.
• The strangers, presumably a husband and wife, sitting next to me on the plane who cuddled each other to sleep after the plane took off.
• The flight attendant who gave my wife and daughters, seated across the aisle from me, a few extra bags of Doritos because my kids are addicted to them.
• All the passengers who complained because the airline’s satellite TV system was malfunctioning.
• The pilot who safely navigated us through a roller coaster of turbulence over Louisiana.
• The snuggling passenger next to me who, upon waking up, rang the flight attendant button to ask for a bottle of water and a cup of coffee.
• The flight attendant who forgot to bring that cup of coffee.
• The woman who let me go ahead of her while exiting the plane because I was carrying my daughter.
• The passenger at baggage claim whom I accidentally bumped with my backpack. I said sorry; he didn’t reply.
• The long-term parking lot shuttle driver who cracked jokes and put a smile on the faces of many tired travelers.
• The parking lot cashier who said nothing to me other than “$35.”
It fascinates me that anyone I run into on any given day could be Jesus. But it saddens me that I might not recognize him.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. Luke 24:15-16
We might not recognize Jesus if we are so disillusioned by the problems and evils of the world or even just by the daily stresses of life such as work, school and family responsibilities. The Easter season is an opportune time to remember that Jesus is always with us, even during the weariest of travels.
He’s there even if we do not ask Him to be. But it’s up to us to recognize Him. Perhaps the best way to do that is by opening ourselves to Him through prayer and by listening to the word of God.
Have a nice flight.