The Gospel reading appointed for today offers a profound description of the human condition.

13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.

15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13-16)

That is our problem.That is the world’s problem, the fundamental dilemma of the human community

We are walking along the road in the presence of truth, light, beauty and goodness, but we are unable to see. We fail to perceive the divine presence that permeates all of existence. We are surrounded by mystery, wonder, and love, but do not notice its presence. We are insensitive to the deep reality that is everywhere. We are dense, unconscious, and unaware.

What is it that has made these two anonymous people on the road to Emmaus unable to see?

The answer is obscured in most modern English translations where, as in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, verse sixteen is translated

their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

The King James Version comes closer to the original Greek when it suggests that verse sixteen actually says,

their eyes were holden that they should not know him.

“Holden” is not a particularly common word in current parlance. We do not speak often of being holden; but it is the crucial word here.

The Greek word translated in the KJV as “holden” is krateo. It means taken, bound, held. These two despondent travelers who are walking alongside the very presence of that beauty, truth and love they knew in Jesus before his death but are unable to see in their unrecognized companion, cannot see what their hearts long to know because they are trapped. Their eyes are bound.

They are bound because, as Jesus says in verse twenty-five,

Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!

“Foolish” means “unwise”. But the really interesting expression in this verse is the phrase “slow of heart” – “bradus kardia“. “Kardia” is heart, as in cardiac. “Bradus” means “inactive.” They are held in their impoverished vision because their hearts have become inactive.

They are living in only one dimension. They have been “taken” by horizontal circumstances. They are overwhelmed by the tragedy and brokenness that have fallen on Jesus. They are unable to see beneath the surface to the transcendent power of love that has always been at work, even in the darkest moments of Jesus’ life and death. They are trapped in a shortsighted vision that fails to see beyond circumstance.

If we are going to see more deeply, our hearts need to become “active.” We need to open to a dimension within ourselves that penetrates to a place deeper than our mental capacity. We must become sensitive to the secret stirring that moves in the hidden realm of the soul.

In order to open to this deeper dimension of life, we need to start by stopping. The problem with these two travelers is that they were on the road to Emmaus. They were supposed to be staying put in Jerusalem.

The sequence of events is not entirely clear, but at some point, they were supposed to understand, the instruction the risen Christ gave to his disciples in the opening chapter of Acts:

1In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me. (Acts 1:1-4)

Whenever this instruction was given, and, whether or not Cleopas and his companion had heard these words,  as soon as they perceived that it was Jesus who shared a meal with them, their hearts immediately understood that Jerusalem was the place they needed be.

33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. (Luke 24:33)

How did they get to this place within themselves where suddenly they knew what they needed to know?

Their journey to seeing passed through broken bread.

30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.

31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. (Acts 24:30,31)

Bread is broken in order to be shared.

Seeing comes through sharing. Our eyes open when we open our hearts to other people. Seeing comes about by virtue of a corporate act. We need the communion of beings in order to see more deeply.

Paul said to the Christians in Corinth,

Now you are the body of Christ. (I Corinthians 12:27)

When we come together as a body and share, our hearts open to perceive the beauty, mystery, and love that are the core of all existence.

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