Third Sunday of Easter - A Cycle - Luke 24:13-35
In one year, 150,000 Americans were received into the Church at the Easter Vigil alone. Many found the Church by themselves. After his Baptism, one said to the priest, "How strange you Catholics withhold from the world the best news that ever came into it."
Rembrandt was so carried away by Emmaus that he gave us three different paintings of the meal. The New Yorker magazine writes that for Rembrandt the sacrifice of Jesus is equal to a bomb dropping into history and blowing everything askew. This Gospel is one of the immortal short stories of history. Only Luke tells this story. Mark refers to it in a teasing one liner. (William Barclay)
Early Sunday AM, two disciples from the B team are walking the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. (Today three villages claim to be Emmaus.) It is two days since their Leader had been mugged and murdered. They had to be young. When was the last time you walked seven miles in three digit heat?
For centuries, Emmaus was considered a village. Some, however, speculate it was a Roman army barracks. So, these two Jews were employed there in a modest capacity. Possibly they were husband and wife. But, whoever they were, they were not happy campers. Supporting actors though they might be, they merit space in the Guinness Book of World Records. They are among the first people mentioned in the Gospels as members of the Church.
They had waited around for the Resurrection, but they came up empty. Events would establish they had left Jerusalem too soon. They had closed the book before reading the last chapter. (Arthur Tonne) They were heading back to work making beds, emptying slop buckets, and eating army chow. They had lost their faith. The whole Jesus thing was a noisy fraud. They were losers. They were going back to lives of noisy desperation.
A stranger appeared. They did not recognize their former Employer. Presumably they were looking at a glorified body. Jesus, tongue deep in cheek, asks, "What's new, guys?" They respond with shock, "Mister, are you the only one in Jerusalem not reading the newspapers and watching TV?" So, they bring the resurrected Lord up to speed. The reaction of Jesus is machine gun quick. "You people must have room temperature IQs. Do I have to explain everything to you sixteen times?" Here, folks, is a fresh dimension of Christ that we should dwell on. He doesn't suffer fools gladly. He does not get His laughs from drawing the same picture. There are times He plays hard ball. We should get our respective acts together. It's later than we think.
Jesus puts this husband and wife in the picture. And Luke is emphasizing the ability of the Lord to make sense of muddy situations. (Barclay) Emmaus is in the immediate distance. Jesus pushes on, "Adios." "Lord, abide with us. Fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens. With us abide." (Henry Lyte) It was not dusk. But they were so enchanted by the stranger they resorted to hyperbole to keep Him. How charming they must have found Him. He was waiting for their invitation. The Lord always knocks and waits. Once invited, He RSVPs immediately. We should be so gracious to hosts.
Both the icebox and freezer were empty in their condo. So, one went off to the supermarket for cold cuts and bread. If they were married, do you want to guess who went? Their depression had lifted without medication. The record shows that the Christ has that impact on those smart enough to take Him at His word. The Lord takes charge. The guest becomes the host. The hosts become His guests. "He took the bread and said the blessing." Are we talking about the Eucharist? Possibly. We do not know.
You know of course how the story ends. They recognized Him. How? Perhaps the nail marks in His Hands. Perhaps the way He broke the bread. In any event, He disappears into the woodwork. They rush out and rent an Avis Rent-a-Donkey for the trip back to the central office in Jerusalem. Chairman Peter must know of this. They didn't take time to put the dishes into the GE washer.
What is Luke telling us? The foxy missionary is e-mailing us that the Resurrection is news that must be told immediately to everyone. So, when people stop you today and ask what's new, advise them Jesus has risen just as He said. Remember the convert who had to find Jesus on his own, "Christ, said the monk, "is meant to be bread for daily use and not cake for parties. So, live today as though Christ died yesterday, arose this morning, and is coming back tomorrow."
Third Sunday of Easter: The Walk of Grief
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Two men are taking a long walk of shock, disappointment and grief. They were walking from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus. It was a long walk. Emmaus was about seven miles from Jerusalem, about a 4-hour walk.Â It was a long walk.Â It was a sad walk. The men had been disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. They had heard His message.Â They heard Him speak about the love of the Father.Â He said that they should pray to God addressing Him as a baby addresses his or her Father, Abba. They had heard Him speak about the love we need to extend to others.Â Life would be so beautiful; the world would be so wonderful if people would only love each other, especially those who need the love and compassion of others.Â The disciples had witness His deeds. Perhaps they were present when he raised up from the dead the son of the widow of Nain, or little Tabitha, or Lazarus.Â Perhaps they saw some of his healings.Â Certainly, they were present when he multiplied the bread and fish for thousands.Â Â They were sure that Jesus was the Messiah.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â But then everything fell into pieces. Jesus was arrested the Thursday before. He was treated horribly that night and then on the next day, scourged and crucified. The disciples were certain that this could not happen to the Messiah. They were in shock. They were disappointed. And they were in grief. They had loved this Jesus, and now He was gone. That day, it was Sunday, there had been a story that Jesus was not in the tomb. But that sounded far-fetched probably more wish than reality.
Â Â Â Â Many of us have been on that road of grief. Our lives had been going well.Â We were happy. Perhaps, not giddy, but content.Â We had our plans all set and everything seemed to be fitting into place.Â Then something unforeseen happened, something tragic or at least challenging.Â During this last year, two young fathers in our parish died suddenly. Not only did their lives end sooner than they expected, but now their wives and children have to adapt to a new reality in the middle of their struggling with grief. Other people, young people, have come down with life threatening diseases and conditions like cancer or heart problems.Â Everything changed for them and their families.
Â Â Â Â Â When tragedy strikes, it is quite normal for us to ask many questions. The main questions we ask are "Why? Why did this happen?" and "Where were you?Â Where were you God?"
Â Â Â Â When the disciples on the road asked the Why question, they were taught that the answer to their question could be found in Scripture. The stranger that joined them on the walk told them about the Suffering Servant of Isaiah and then how the prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus suffering, death and resurrection.Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â When we ask the Why question we also need to listen to what the Word of God is saying to us. Scripture tells us that there is infinitely more to life than the here and now. It tells us that we are made for eternity. It tells us that our loved ones have transitioned from this life to the next because physical life ends but the spiritual life remains. Scripture tells us that God can and does write straight with the crooked lines of our lives. We need to be exposed to the Word of God to deal with our lives. We need to read the Bible.Â We need to come to Church and hear how the passages of the Bible relate to our lives.Â "We're not our hearts burning when He explained the scripture to us?," the disciples said. Our hearts will also burn when we realize that everything that happens in our lives can and will be used by God as part of His plan.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â That is the best answer we can come upon for the Why question. Then there is the Where question. Where were you God when this happened?Â God answers, "I was right there with you."Â He is here with us now, rejoicing with us in the good times and crying with us in the stressful times. God is not remote, removed from us.Â The direct opposite.Â He is so close to us that He wants us to take His Body and Blood inside of us. We do this every time we receive communion.Â Then we come even closer to Him.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Those disciples recognized the presence of God in the breaking of the bread. We call on our faith and recognize the presence of God in the Eucharist. We need to receive communion so we can cherish the very presence of God within us. We need to call out to Him for help. We need to ask Him to help us hold on, hold on to our being our best selves, to hold on to our faith.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â We have all been there with those disciples on that road.Â We will probably be there again. But we will never walk alone. Jesus is there walking with us, calming us, soothing us with His Word and strengthening us withÂ His Eucharist.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Our lives are a journey with the Lord on the road to Emmaus.
Saint Vincent Archabbey
The text set before us in the Gospel today has been described as one of the most beautiful stories in the pages of world literature. There is great artistry in the way Luke presents the story and gradually builds up the various layers of meaning.
The stranger on the road gets the two disciples to give their account of what has happened in Jerusalem. He then gives his own interpretation which leads to the revelation of himself in the breaking of the bread. The disciples hurry back to Jerusalem and repeat what Jesus has said to the other disciples.
So, we see that it is a story which revolves around different views of the same event, namely the death of Jesus. The disciples see it as a disaster while Jesus sees it as a fulfilment of the scriptures. It is also a story about recognition. As he breaks the bread the disciples suddenly recognise the person of Jesus and at the same time recognise the truth of his account of the events which they have witnessed.
Incidentally, there was no one called Cleopas at the Last Supper so we are drawn to conclude that Jesus must often have broken bread with his disciples. It was clearly a distinctive act and something that Jesus must have done frequently with his disciples so much so that as soon as he does it they recognise him.
There is also some interesting geography involved in the story. Jesusâ€™ whole mission has been centred on Jerusalem. His ministry is a preparation for his definitive entry into Jerusalem where the events of our salvation are to be worked out.
Dismayed at what has happened the two disciples are returning home to Emmaus; putting distance between themselves and Jerusalem. But as a result of their encounter with the Risen Lord they turn around and go directly back to the Holy City where they are to await the final chapter in the drama and receive the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Thatâ€™s some of the structure of this account of the Emmaus journey but what is there here for us? Well, we are told that something prevented them from recognising him. Immediately we discover that we are on familiar territory!
We are all too aware that the same thing happens to us. How often have we failed to recognise Christ when he knocks on our door or comes to us in his many different disguises? How often have we rejected his message because it seems too improbable or demanding? How often have we failed to see his hand at work in the events of our daily lives? How often have we wilfully chosen to ignore his will for us?
The two disciples had, it seemed, lost their faith in Jesus â€”they were walking away. But Jesus with an extraordinary delicacy draws them back to faith in him and deepens it in the process. It is as if he explains the scriptures and the events they had witnessed in a way no one ever had before. And yet we know from reading the Gospels that he had himself explained the same sorts of things to them over and over again throughout the previous three years.
The difference is that then they couldnâ€™t grasp that what he was predicting would actually happen. They were too full of hope to appreciate the reality of what Jesus was to undergo. But once those things had actually occurred, they are despondent, their world has collapsed, they are in depression and all hope has gone.
But it is at that precise moment when their defences are down that Jesusâ€™ explanations given along the road begin to dawn on them. Suddenly their situation changes, they recognise Jesus and their hope is restored a hundred-fold.
Another interesting point in the story is that it is only when they show the stranger an act of kindness that all is revealed to them. We can only wonder what would have happened if they had not invited him in. Here again there is a lesson for us. How do we know what the results of a small act of kindness might be?
There is much in this wonderful story. It is certainly a miniature literary masterpiece, but it is above all an extraordinary faith story which will retain its relevance for all time. If I were you, Iâ€™d cut the passage out of my missalette and place it somewhere in the house where it can be read again and again.
The story of Emmaus is, of course, the story of a journey. And the story of our own lives and that of the Church is also the story of a journey â€”a journey of faith. In thinking about Christâ€™s journey it is perhaps salutary for us to think also about our own journey, our own pilgrimage of faith through this life of ours on earth.
I recommend that sometime today you spend a few minutes thinking about how God has prepared you to face the tasks and challenges he has set before you. Think about how his hand has guided you. Remember the things he has whispered into your ear as you have walked along the road with him. Give thanks for how he has guided you thus far and resolve to be more open to the promptings of his Holy Spirit.
This journey through life is not always rosy. Sometimes devastating things happen and like those disciples on the road to Emmaus we cannot always see Godâ€™s logic, we become depressed or angry with him and walk away. We go home with the intention of metaphorically shutting the door on the Lord. In the face of family illness or bereavement we frequently feel that he has put us through a roller-coaster of tribulation to no evident purpose, raising our hopes only to dash them again.
It is at moments like this that re should remind ourselves of the Story of Emmaus and tell ourselves that we are on that road too. Maybe it is not a mere afternoon walk of six miles, perhaps our journey is much longer and more convoluted. But it is the same journey. And on that journey we meet Christ in many different guises. And the moment of recognition will come. And the purpose of all the trials and tribulations will be revealed. When that moment comes the faith and perseverance that was sorely tried and tested will be vindicated.
Remember the journey to Emmaus did not end in that village; no, the disciples went back to where they started from. Their journey ended in Jerusalem. Our journey too will end in Jerusalem, but not the one in Israel but the heavenly one!
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