Br. Josép R. Martínez-Cubero,OHC
Third Sunday of Easter- Sunday, April 30, 2017
|Br. Josép R. Martínez-Cubero, OHC|
Much of our faith as Christians is based on the Resurrection stories, and these stories are full of uncertainties and confusions. These uncertainties lead the characters of the stories, and us to ask questions. Questions are not just a stage on the journey towards solid faith, but a vital part of the work of the Holy Spirit. Spirit leads us by our questions. We need questions to grow, and a life of faith is a life of questions and of living in the unknowing. After all, if we had all the answers, we would not need faith. The Resurrection stories are about what we come to believe, and how we come to believe through confusions and doubt.
The early church referred to the Christian faith as “the way”, and the gospel lesson this morning is a story about what happens on the way. Jesus meets Cleopas and his companion on the way. He meets them where they are, on the road, amid their journey, in the middle of all the pain, frustration, and despondency that threatens to overwhelm them. They are on the road to Emmaus. And where is Emmaus? American writer and theologian Frederick Buechner describes it as “the place to run to when we have lost hope or don’t know what to do, the place of escape, of forgetting, of giving up, of deadening our senses and our minds and maybe our hearts, too.” The disciples dashed hopes are voiced: “… we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel…” Had hoped. We invested our hopes in this Jesus, but he was not whom we had hoped he would be. They are allowed full expression of doubt and disappointment before Jesus redefines, through the scriptures, their understanding, helping them to see how God is at work even through suffering and death.
Jesus leads the two travelers through a process of greater awareness. As they talk, and as they listen to Jesus, their hearts burn within them. It is the practice of hospitality, a practice that requires us to open our hearts even to strangers, and even when we don’t feel like it, that helps Cleopas and his companion to be open to the possibility of recognizing the risen Christ. As they approach their destination, and notice that Jesus seems to be planning to keep walking, they insist that Jesus stay with them. They offer hospitality to one they believe to be a stranger. Recognizing the risen Christ is an unconditional gift given by the Holy Spirit, not earned, not figured out, and not having to do with intelligence, but we have to consent. It is the practice of hospitality that helps the disciples to be open to receiving the gift.
At the table, Jesus, the stranger, their guest "took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them". With this passage the gospel of Luke recalls the first meal in the book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit. In that case, "their eyes were opened" and they knew they were naked. In this instance, "their eyes were opened" and they recognized Jesus. This is the eighth meal in Luke's gospel and thus, the meal of "the new creation." The long journey out of Eden is over. The new creation has begun. Later, in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke will describe the church as being a community devoted to "the apostles' teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers".
Christian faith is nurtured where people share in worship through the scriptures, proclamation, and sacrament; with earthly means, such as water, bread, wine, and with gesture, and expressions of hospitality: the clasp of another's hand, the embrace.
“Emmaus always happens,” writes biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan. It is in this story that the early Christian community describes its life in those days, months, years, and decades after Jesus was crucified. It was in their engagement with strangers, with the scriptures, and in the blessing, breaking, and sharing of bread as he had done, that they encountered the Risen Christ in their midst, over and over again. It was by traveling two by two, from home to home, sharing meals, telling the story, bringing healing and good news, that those disciples experienced Jesus’ presence, saw His face, and then He vanished from their sight…only to turn up again as they walked down the road, sat at table, told the story, again, and again.
The story reflects the pattern of the Christian life as we, on our journey through life, live it out. Cleopas speaks of Jesus as paroikeis, which means one who dwells in an area as a sojourner. It is a spiritual truth that we are all on a pilgrimage through life. We are all sojourners, traveling on a spiritual journey, and that journey is communal. We cannot do it alone. Jesus offers to meet us where we are, share the scriptures so that we can make sense of our lives in light of God's mercy, gather us to the meal that we might be nourished by Christ's own presence, and send us on our way to partner in God's work and to share God's grace.
The journey of faith is the road to Emmaus, and that road is wherever we are. We are all on this journey of faith and questions. Jesus is beside us in the stranger, in the person in need, in the person at our table. Christ is waiting for us to notice him. He won’t barge in uninvited. That’s not the kind of power God wields. But Christ is available to be in relationship with us at all times, in all places, through all people, and through all the events of our daily life, our joys, our passions, our pains, our sufferings. Hospitality and openness make transformation possible, our transformation, our community’s transformation, our country’s transformation, and our world’s transformation. ¡Que así sea! ~Amen
· Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat (Harper Collins, 1985).
· Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus (Shambhala Publications, 2008)
· Louis Weil, Charles P. Price, Liturgy for Living (Morehouse Publishing, 2000)
· John Dominic Crossan, The Power of Parable (Harper One, 2013)