Everyone is on a journey, but we are not always able to recognize it, to describe it, or to give it meaning. I can tell you from experience that you can transit the entire Pacific Ocean in a submarine and never experience motion or turbulence. It is more monastic enclosure than cruise liner. Be the journey marked by submarine, cruise liner, airplane, or other means, we all arrive at the same destination. But there are lots of things that can happen out in the broad expanse of the Pacific, just as things befall us in life. Just as things befall the disciples in today’s gospel.
Last year on the 3rd Sunday of Easter, our gospel was the account of the two disciples on the “Road to Emmaus,” a story of the Risen Jesus appearing to two disciples who were trudging home, crestfallen that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and buried. The two disciples had journeyed to Jerusalem with one set of hopes and expectations. In just three days, the journey changed and had no direction, but the road to Emmaus took new shape in the disciples’ encounter with Christ who opened up the Scriptures to them, enabling them to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread.
This year, also on the 3rd Sunday of Easter, we pick up the story as the two disciples, having hurried back to Jerusalem to share the good news, begin a new journey. Now they and the others in the Jerusalem community have a new mission and a new journey, as our gospels says, “You are witnesses of these things.” All this change in just the course of a single week.
Just as things can change rapidly in ocean waters, so too in life. A rogue wave in the shape of the unexpected telephone call in the middle of the night. A storm surge disguised as a biopsy report. The unexpected passing of a loved one too early in life that leaves you rudderless and without headway – adrift. People once world travelers, now limited to trips to the clinic and the front yard. The missioner who did not expect service in the name of God would entail such suffering, humiliation, and death. Everyone is on a journey. Every journey changes. The waves lift you high and take you low. The trade winds speed the journey along; the gale force winds make you batten the sails. The journey may include many ports-of-call, dry docking, re-supply, or any manner of things unexpected and planned.
One of the things that I love about our gospel story is that Jesus meets them on the way. Maybe it is at the beginning or at journey’s end. On the crest of a wave or in the cradle of what seems like the deep. Maybe it is on the road to Emmaus or in the upper room. And it is not as though Jesus wasn’t there, we just were not paying attention. We do not always have our bearings. Sometimes pain, frustrations, and life can be overwhelming and send us tumbling. When the winds abate, the storms subside, and the seas return to a normal calm, we need to get our bearings.
And with that we set sail in a new direction, with new purpose and vigor – the journey renewed. The promise of Christ is that we will never be alone on the journey. We might be lost, adrift, or stuck in one place. But never alone. Sometimes we just need to get our bearings.
The ancient mariners looked to the heavens. It helped them get their bearings. The two disciples looked to Scripture and the Breaking of the Bread. Where do you look?