This morning after Mass two men, both in their 60s, came to see me in the sacristy. I'll call them Luke and Mark. Luke knows my brother and introduced himself as such before introducing me to Mark, who had once been a professional footballer. Luke told me that they had come to know each other through their common widowerhood.
Luke also told me that he had been away from the Church for more than 20 years but decided to go to Mass on Ash Wednesday this year. Afterwards Mark said to him, 'Welcome back!' Luke didn't quite understand at first that Mark was aware that he'd been away from the sacraments for a long time and he was welcoming him back to the Catholic Christian community.
Since then Luke has been going to Mass every day, as does Mark, and his joy was evident.
It was through welcoming Jesus to join them on the road to Emmaus and later to supper when they arrived there that the two disciples came to recognise the Risen Lord. I don't know what prompted Luke to go to Mass on Ash Wednesday but the welcome he received from Mark has led him to throw in his lot again with the Church.
I've been home in Dublin only a few days. There are many things in contemporary Ireland that discourage me but the Road to Emmaus is still there and individuals walking on it are still helping others to discover or re-discover the Lord by the simple act of welcoming them.