The Gospel of Jesus on the Road to Emmaus from this last Sunday, the Third Sunday of Easter, is a keystone text for the Easter season. As I was thinking about this gospel, the words “on the road” seemed to be a reminder of the that famous Jack Kerouac novel of the same name. Kerouac’s involvement in the counter-cultural beat generation, while at the same time being a Catholic layman, seemed to be an interesting and unusual mix. Well perhaps it is, but there may be something to glean from his experience.
As the disciples were walking on the road with Jesus, they exclaimed to him, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who has not heard of all that has happened?” (Lk 24:18). In a word, they say to Jesus, “Are you not like everyone else?” And who is that “everyone else”? Perhaps they are those who, like the two disciples, have lost hope. As Jesus opens the scriptures to them, he reveals a fresh way of thinking—a way that is unlike the social norm.
Belief in Christ and the miracle of his resurrection runs contrary to the hopeless tendency of human nature. A Christian life stands in the way of Godless pessimism, as a light that shines in a dark place. Jesus’ message—the message of the Gospel—is at its core a counter-cultural one, because it gives supernatural hope to an unbelieving world. Believe in me, says Christ, and your hearts will be set ablaze!