The Road to Emmaus
I’ve come back to Israel for a month visit. It’s been exactly two years since I moved back to America from this unique and spiritually laden land, which was the will of God for me and my family at that time. What a wonderful feeling to be “home” here again. I have missed this Holy Land so much. I awoke this morning to a symphony of birds and the persistent meowing of Marianne’s tabby cat who greeted me as if to say, “Where have you been all this time?”
I am staying with Marianne for the first half of my visit to Israel in her quaint cottage in the kibbutz of Nahshon outside of Jerusalem. Nahshon is a community of about 400 souls, of which Marianne is the only Catholic living amongst the Jewish habitants of this little village. It is here where our Lord called Marianne, a fallen away Catholic, back to Himself by extraordinary signs and wonders after she had come from Holland as a teenager to serve as a volunteer for six months in this communal society.
She had always felt a “call” to come to Israel, but did not understand yet the plan the Lord had for her life when she responded to the Spirit’s prompting at age 19 to leave Holland to come to the Holy Land.
The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you (Genesis 12:1).
She has been living in Nahshon for more than 37 years. After about 15 years of worldly living in Israel, the Holy Spirit began moving mightily upon Marianne’s heart to bring her to repentance and a radical conversion. In His mysterious will, our Lord had purposed from eternity that in His perfect timing Marianne be positioned in the heartland of Israel to become one of His faithful laborers in the harvest of souls for His Kingdom. Jesus had called Marianne as a witness to His merciful love and abiding truth to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel”.
Marianne’s tiny hamlet of Nahshon is situated in the valley of Ayalon in the shadow of the great stone Monastery of Latrun. During the three years I was living and laboring for souls for the Lord in the harvest fields of Israel, Marianne and I attended Holy Mass together every Sunday with the monks of the monastery. The monastery sits high on a rise overlooking the Ayalon Valley. It was in this valley where the Lord made the sun and moon stand still to give Joshua the advantage over his enemies. (Joshua 10)
Nahshon is also located across the Jerusalem highway from the town of Emmaus where our Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself after His Resurrection to the two disciples who were walking along the Emmaus Road ( Luke24: 13-33).
Every Sunday I would drive from the town along the Mediterranean coast where I was living with my family to Nahshon to go with Marianne to Holy Mass at Latrun. Where I was living with my family there were no churches in the town as the community was Jewish. The closest churches were in Haifa, Jaffa and Latrun, all of which were more than an hour drive by highway. To attend Holy Mass every Sunday was a veritable pilgrimage. Love for Jesus and an intense desire receive my Lord in Holy Communion more than outweighed any burden of journey. Marianne too had made many pilgrimages of love for our Lord after the years since her conversion. As she had no car, Marianne would have to walk several miles or try to hitch hike to the monastery on the hilltop.
It became our custom after Holy Mass to drive towards Jerusalem to share a meal together at En Kerem. En Kerem is situated in the Judean hills near Jerusalem and is the birthplace of St John the Baptist and the place of Holy Mary’s visitation to St Elizabeth.
On one particular Sunday, Marianne and I went after Mass to our usual place in En Kerem. We always sat at a table on the second floor balcony of the restaurant to enjoy the magnificent view of the onion shaped golden domes of the Russian Orthodox Church and Convent of the Sisters of Zion which was built on the slope of the hill which overlooks the town. After a delicious meal of Middle Eastern delicacies and a time of Christian fellowship we started our journey back to Nahshon.
As we were slowly driving down the narrow road of the town that led to the highway, we noticed a man hitch-hiking. Hitch-hiking is a common practice here in Israel as many people cannot afford to own a car and public transportation is very poor in rural places. I had at times felt the call to be a “Good Samaritan” and stop and give someone a ride, although my husband and children often scolded me for taking a risk to my safety by picking up strangers and begged me not to do so. The hitch-hiker had his thumb extended.
We slowly drove past him but I did not wish to pick him up. We continued our journey. Close to the entrance of the highway that goes towards Tel Aviv we stopped at a red light. I noticed through my driver’s side window another man standing on the sidewalk there. He was not hitch-hiking. He did not approach us, nor did he have his thumb extended in the universal sign of the hitch-hiker. Suddenly, nudged by the Holy Spirit, I rolled down my window and blurted out, “Do you need a ride?” I had passed by the first hitch-hiker as my own will had determined not to pick up any strangers. Yet, the Holy Spirit’s will was quite different from mine. Our Lord had His eyes fixed on this particular son of Abraham.
…they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth (Zechariah 4:10).
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth (Revelation 5:6).
Using me as His instrument the Lord had invited this man into our car. Jesus desired to engage one of His sons of the “lost sheep of the Tribe of Israel” in conversation. Amazingly, the stranger responded to my spontaneous and unsolicited invitation, saying, “Yes, I need a ride. I want to go to Beit Shemesh,” (which means house of the sun).
The Holy Spirit’s prompting of my un-premeditated invitation to the man happened so suddenly that I did not take notice of the traditional Orthodox Jewish attire he was wearing. The Orthodox Jew entered our car and sat in the back seat. Marianne and I were amazed as we comprehended the extraordinary thing that was happening. Traditionally, an Orthodox Jewish man would never get into a car with two women who are not his relatives.
We began driving and entered onto the highway in the direction of Beit Shemesh, Nahshon, and Tel Aviv. After a brief moment, the Orthodox Jew spoke up from the back seat and initiated a conversation by asking us, “Did you make aliya?” Aliya is the program of emigration to the Land of Israel under the law of Jewish “birthright.” Responding to his question, I pointed to a crucifix hanging from my rear view mirror. He looked at the cross with the corpus dangling from the mirror.
As he gazed at the crucifix, Marianne and I, almost in unison, answered, “No, we are Christians.” There was a long silent pause. Then, our unlikely passenger, in a deeply reflective and serious tone said, “I don’t really understand about Jesus.”
I looked at his face in my rear view mirror and saw from his expression that he was keenly awaiting a response. The love of Jesus for His own kinsman of the Abrahamic faith filled my heart and the fire of the Holy Spirit burned in my soul. In that intense moment, I felt just as St Paul, For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1st Corinthians 9:16).
I yielded totally to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ speaking through me began to reveal to Tzvi, the Orthodox Jew, who with bright eyes and eager expectation continually gazed at me through the rear view mirror, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:13-35).
Our car must have been navigated by our guardian angels, as the entire half hour drive down the steep and winding highway from En Kerem to Beit Shemesh, I could not take my eyes off of Tzvi’s face which I beheld in my rear view mirror as I was sharing the gospel with him. Tzvi’s countenance was filled with wonder and delight as the Holy Spirit touched his heart and mind with the truth about the Person of Jesus Christ.
Just as the resurrected Christ revealed Himself to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel, opened the Scriptures to Tzvi to give him revelation of his long-awaited Messiah.
At Beit Shemesh we stopped the car along the side of the highway and Tzvi got out. From the gratitude in his voice and the joy on his face as he thanked us extensively for what he had heard and the ride home, we had every reason to rejoice seeing evidence of the Holy Spirit’s revelation of Christ to this son of Abraham.
Surely, Tzvi’s heart was burning within while Christ talked with him on the road and opened the Scriptures to him? (Luke 24:13-35).