"Sometimes we don't find God because we are miserable. Life is often filled with suffering. We should not minimize the desolation of the two disciples, who seem on the brink of walking away (they are literally walking away from Jerusalem) from all that they have experienced with Jesus. Yet God has not given up on them. God appears to them, in the midst of their desolation, and helps to reconcile them to what has happened.
"If we are patient, sometimes we are afforded a glimpse of a new way of looking at suffering; over time we can find meaning in its midst. But we must work hard at it. One of the Greek words used in this story provides a clue about how to do this. Cleopas and his friend are described by Luke as 'talking and discussing.' The Greek word for discussing is syzetein, which can also mean 'inquiring' or 'examining.' Luke Timothy Johnson says, 'We are to picture the two disciples trying to figure out the meaning of the events.' All of us are invited to inquire and examine during times of suffering, though our eyes may be kept from seeing God, if only for a time.
"So perhaps I'm being too hard on Cleopas and his companion. Perhaps in their 'talking with each other about all these things that had happened,' they tried to make sense of things, even as they dealt with the evaporation of their hope. Though they feel distant from God, they are still struggling to be in relationship with God. Maybe we need to be more generous with them – and with all who struggle or question or doubt in the Gospels.
"The disciples' eyes are fully open to seeing Jesus only after they offer him hospitality. 'Stay with us,' they say. Remember, they still believe that they are offering hospitality to a stranger. Freed from their focus on self, the two begin to listen to the stranger, to turn outward, and then invite him to dine with them. The attentive reader sees that Cleopas and his friend, even in their grief, imitate Jesus through hospitality and table fellowship. Notice also that Jesus waits to be invited; just as God often awaits an invitation to accompany us.
"Cleopas and his friend mover from their own sadness to a willingness to care for someone else. And in doing so they recognize God."