Emmaus was a town that was 7 miles away from Jerusalem, and on the road heading towards that destination, were two despondent disciples who having experienced the Passion and the death of Jesus, were heading as far away as they could from Jerusalem. They needed to recalibrate their thoughts and process the grief that they carried in their hearts, so they took an excursion to Emmaus. It is interesting that the word, “Emmaus” etymologically comes from the Aramaic word, hammat, meaning “hot springs” (Online Etymology Dictionary, n.d.). While it is indeterminate as to the actual location of where Emmaus really was, the study of the geography of the land reveals two possibilities that the disciples were heading towards – where today is known as Emmaus Nikopolis, the Valley of Springs, where an abundance of hot springs existed, or Emmaus of Galilee which was a biblically walled city known for its 17 healing springs and was the spa centre of the Roman City of Tiberias. Eusebius Pamphili, the Bishop of Caesarea in circa A.D. 260 to 339, nonetheless attributes the Emmaus in the Gospel of Luke to Emmaus Nikopolis (Freeman-Grenville, Chapman III & Taylor, 2003). Archaelogists have yet to find the actual location of Emmaus however. For Pope Benedict XVI, the road to Emmaus is an analogy of a form of Christian growth and maturity in the Faith. This archaeological indeterminacy of the actual location of the Emmaus described in Luke’s Gospel then takes on a significance today that suggests that the Emmaus is found everywhere, for every Christian who is journeying towards a fuller knowledge and understanding of Christ (Catholic News Agency, 2008).

Scott Hahn (n.d.) augments this to say that this Emmaus Encounter is found exactly in the liturgy of the Celebration of the Eucharist – with the unpacking of the Word, and Jesus the High Priest, breaking the bread at the Eucharist. This in turn affirms what is already found in Church Teaching. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, the

“Eucharistic celebration always includes: the proclamation of the Word of God; thanksgiving to God the Father for all his benefits, above all the gift of his Son; the consecration of bread and wine; and participation in the liturgical banquet by receiving the Lord’s body and blood.” which, “constitute one single act of worship” (CCC 1408).

Corroborating this is the teaching found in CCC. 1088 which says,

“Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, ‘the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,’ but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.”‘

Thus, we see Jesus who is constantly with us as he says in Matthew 28:20 – “Behold, I am with you always, yes until the end of time,” as his namesake suggests – “God with us” is found present in the sacraments and the liturgy of the Church, unpacking the Scripture to us, and revealing Himself to us in the Sacramental signs.

It is important to remember the Emmaus Encounter, especially during the times when we do not wish to face up to the reality of Jerusalem or Galilee, when we become crucified, or when we need to re-encounter the Resurrected Jesus. Ron Rolheiser (2001) suggests that we ponder upon where we would meet the Resurrected Lord and where the Resurrected Lord would meet us – drawing from the words of Scripture, we are exhorted to return to “Galilee” – “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” (Matthew 28: 6-7) It is strange that the Angel of the Lord tells the disciples to return to Galilee the place of origin. Rolheiser goes on to explain that Galilee does not merely refer to a particular geographic location, but is a metaphor representing the place where the dream was first planted, the place where Jesus first calls out to his disciples to follow him, a call to return to the place where the disciples’ hearts were filled with deep and profound joy, and their hearts had been inflamed with such excitement and enthusiasm that they left everything to follow Him.

“What is Galilee? Why go back? In the post-resurrection accounts in the gospels, Galilee is not simply a physical geography. It is, first of all, a place in the heart. Galilee is the dream, the road of discipleship that they had once walked with Jesus, and that place and time when their hearts had most burned with hope and enthusiasm. And now, just when they feel that this all is dead, that their faith is only fantasy, they are told to go back to the place where it all began: “Go back to Galilee. He will meet you there!”

And they do go back, to Galilee, to that special place in their hearts, to the dream, to their discipleship. Sure enough, Jesus appears to them there. He doesn’t appear exactly as they remember him, nor as often as they would like him to, but he does appear as more than a ghost or a mere idea. The Christ that appears to them after the resurrection no longer fits their original expectation, but he is physical enough to eat fish in the presence, real enough to be touched as a human being, and powerful enough to change their lives forever.

Ultimately that is what the resurrection challenges us to do, to go back to Galilee, to return to the dream, hope, and discipleship that had once inflamed us but that now is crucified.” (Rolheiser, 2001, para. 4-6)

There are parallels in the Road to Emmaus. Jerusalem, in this case refers to the call and the vocation. The disciples were trying to run away as far as they could from the call, even to the point in distracting themselves by soaking in some hot spring, but Jesus meets them where they are on the road and redirects them to u-turn them back to Jerusalem.

In our discouragements, the problems happen when, instead of returning to Galilee or Jerusalem, we run instead to Genting or Macau, or Geylang either literally or metaphorically, and appeal to the slot machines of pornography and other addictions. It is too easy to abandon the call to discipleship, and run towards temporal satisfaction of the senses (cf. Rolheiser, 2001).

Pope Francis (2014) reminds us,

“The road to Emmaus thus becomes a symbol of our journey of faith: the Scriptures and the Eucharist are the indispensable elements for encountering the Lord. We too often go to Sunday Mass with our worries, difficulties and disappointments…. Life sometimes wounds us and we go away feeling sad, towards our “Emmaus”, turning our backs on God’s plan. We distance ourselves from God. But the Liturgy of the Word welcomes us: Jesus explains the Scriptures to us and rekindles in our hearts the warmth of faith and hope, and in Communion he gives us strength.”

This Easter season, where is Jesus trying to meet us at? What is the Jerusalem or Galilee that we are running away from?


By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan






Catechism of the Catholic Church. (1993). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

Catholic News Agency. (Apr 6, 2008). Road to Emmaus gives hope to all Christians, says Holy Father. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved April 22, 2023 from https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/12255/road-to-emmaus-gives-hope-to-all-christians-says-holy-father

Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P., Chapman III, R. L & Taylor J. E. (2003). The Onomasticon By Eusebius Of Caesarea. (English Edition). Carta Jerusalem.

Hahn, S. (n.d.). Emmaus and Us: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Third Sunday of Easter. St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Retrieved April 22, 2023 from https://stpaulcenter.com/audio/sunday-bible-reflections/emmaus-and-us-scott-hahn-reflects-on-the-third-sunday-of-easter/

Pope Francis. (May 4, 2014). Regina Caeli. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/angelus/2014/documents/papa-francesco_regina-coeli_20140504.html

Online Etymolgy Dictionary. (n.d.). Emmaus. Online etymology Dictionary. Retrieved April 22, 2023 from https://www.etymonline.com/word/emmaus

Rolheiser, R. (2001). Living Beyond our Crucifixions. Ron Rolheiser. Retrieved April 22, 2023 from https://ronrolheiser.com/living-beyond-our-crucifixions/ – .ZEMiYvxBy5c