RCL - Easter 3 A - Sunday 06 April 2008
1 Peter 1:17-23
When I was in Santa Barbara last week, I went to the Art Museum and saw a 4,000 years old portrait bust of the Chief Magistrate of a league of Sumerian city states. I believe that this portrait bust reflects the longing of the oldest civilization for a world of justice and peace. The Sumerian civilization was located in what is now southern Iraq where our army is waging war. So much for a world of justice and peace!
The bright new world of justice and freedom which Jesus had promised vanished like an idle dream. Cleopas and Fred had heard vague rumors that Jesus had somehow survived, but they apparently did not believe. It was time to get out of Jerusalem and go back to whatever was left of their ordinary lives. Their age of hope seemed to be over.
So Cleopas and Fred were trudging along the road to Emmaeus when this stranger appeared and asked what they were talking about. As you know, the stranger was the risen and glorified Jesus whom they could not recognize because his risen and glorified form was different from the pre-crucifixion Jesus they had known. The gospel says their eyes were kept from recognizing him. They liked how he explained that Jesus really was the fulfillment of Moses of and the Prophets, and they invited him to dinner when they reached Emmaeus. They went in to eat and Jesus changed from being guest to being host. He took charge. He took the bread, blessed it and broke it. Then their eyes were opened and they received grace to recognize the risen and glorified Jesus. And Jesus vanished from their sight.
The Supper at Emmaus – 1601 – Michelangelo Caravaggio 1571 - 1610 – The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London
The result of their encounter with their resurrected Lord was that their despair was dispelled and they were filled with joy and hope. Their hope for a new world was restored and they returned to Jerusalem to discover that all remarkable things were happening. The apostles were doing all sorts of wonders and signs and the believers had established a commune in which they shared everything in common and had everybody’s goodwill. It sounds like the Haight Asbury neighborhood during the Summer of Love in 1968. I was living in Charlottesville, VA then, and we were still wearing jackets and ties, but we did hear about the Haight Ashbury event and I wished I could be part of it, but I didn’t have the courage to take off my tie and go to San Francisco.
When Cleopas and Fred encountered the risen and glorified Savior and their eyes were opened they were filled with hope and their lives were transformed. They returned to Jerusalem to be part of the transformation of the world that was beginning.
I believe that the risen and glorified Jesus is present to each of us today, but our eyes are closed, and we cannot recognize him except by the grace of God. However, I know that there are times when I catch glimpses of the risen and glorified Jesus in ordinary people. A few days ago I shared a conversation with a lady I first met twenty years ago at Mt. Calvary in Santa Barbara. She has Alzheimer’s disease and could not quite remember me, but she could remember coming up to Mt. Calvary to sew and to polish with Pat Jones, a deceased Companion of the Order. This lady, even though she is old and ill and losing her memory, continues to travel 250 miles to come up to the Monastery which she still associates with her friend Pat Jones. In her faithfulness I catch a glimpse of the risen and glorified Savior.
I often catch the glimpses of the risen Lord who is at the core of being of each of us. Thursday night when I was catching the shuttle bus at LaGuardia airport to go to Grand Central Station, I encountered a ticket taker whose charm and courtesy shone with the glory of Our Risen Lord. I believe that when by God’s grace my eyes are open, I can sometimes see the risen and glorified Jesus, and I see him in quite ordinary people. When my eyes are opened and I can see the goodness of ordinary people, people like Cleopas and Fred. Then I know that the thing to do is to turn away from despair and return to Jerusalem to be part of the transformation of the world. As I trudge my daily road to Emmaeus, sometimes my eyes are opened and I catch glimpses of the risen and glorified Jesus and I am filled with hope.