Sunday, May 4, 2014

Homily for 3d Sunday of Easter

Homily for the
3d Sunday of Easter
May 4, 2014
Luke 24: 13-35
Boy Scouts, WPC Camp-o-ree, Croton Point, N.Y.

“That very day, … two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village called Emmaus 7 miles from Jerusalem” (Luke 24: 13).

“That very day” is Sunday, the day when Mary Magdalene and the other women went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body and found the stone rolled away, the tomb empty, the guards gone, and angels announcing Jesus’ resurrection.

No one believed the women, even when they went to the tomb and saw it was empty.  Besides male prejudices against the credibility of women, who ever heard of someone rising from the dead?

So some of Jesus’ disciples left Jerusalem, greatly disheartened and even afraid, and headed home.  Our gospel this evening tells us about 2 of them, one named Cleopas, the other unnamed  —quite possibly his wife; St. John’s gospel tells us that among the women present at the crucifixion was “Mary the wife of Clopas” (19:25).

The Road to Emmaus
Basilica of St. John Bosco, Colle Don Bosco
Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus came and walked along with Cleopas and his companion and engaged them in a long, lively conversation; but they didn’t recognize him until they sat down for supper at their destination.  Risen from the dead, Jesus was clearly different; yet also the same.

I would propose to you 4 lessons from this gospel story.

1st, the disciples lament to this stranger who joins them on the road, “We were hoping that Jesus the Nazarene would be the one to redeem Israel” (24:21).  Aren’t they right about that?  Their mistake lies in the form of their expectations, in their understanding of Israel’s redemption.  It’s not a political or nationalistic or economic redemption—throwing out the Romans and re-establishing the kingdom of David, followed by prosperity for everyone.  It’s the redemption of our hearts and souls, freedom not from Rome but from Satan, the promise of everlasting life and eternal joy.  Sometimes we’re disappointed by what happens in life because our expectations are misguided, because we’re not looking at our lives from God’s perspective but from our own narrow, self-centered, time-limited perspective.  Such hopes will always fall short.  How many of you have seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life?  George Bailey despairs of his life when he regards it in terms of material success; he’s saved when he’s given a different perspective, you might say, an other-worldly perspective, on the impact of his life on other people and on his community.  There’s no redemption in human institutions or in our own efforts to make ourselves happy.

2d lesson:  “He interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures” (24:27).  Jesus explains to Cleopas and his companion the events they’ve just witnessed or taken part in, from God’s viewpoint.  We find God’s viewpoint in his Word, in the sacred Scriptures.  Our individual life histories aren’t written out in the Old Testament and the Gospels, of course, but the human story is there:  the story of all our hopes and desires, of our sins and failings, of how much God loves us and how he’s shown us that love.  We place our lives, with joys and sorrows, their triumphs and disappointments, into the context of God’s Word, and then we begin to find the direction and the meaning of our lives.  God’s Word sheds light on what we experience, helps us see where we’re going.  As one of the Psalms says, God’s Word is a light for our path (119:105).

3d lesson:  “It happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them” (24:15).  Jesus traveled with them and discussed with them for several miles—as Scouts, we know how long that can take, especially when we’re talking.  Yet, St. Luke tells us, they didn’t recognize him—not his appearance nor his voice.  Nevertheless, he was with them, leading their discussion and gradually enlightening their understanding of the events they’d just lived thru.

We may not see him, but Jesus is our constant companion.  We’re walking a long journey—a pilgrimage, in fact—toward our Father’s home, toward eternal life.  And Jesus is always our companion, altho we don’t perceive him in any physical sense.  If we’ll open our hearts and our minds to his truth—not only in the Word of God as we saw already, but in personal conversation, i.e., in prayer, then he’ll help us as we travel, help us make sense of what’s going on in our lives.  Jesus once walked the roads of Galilee and Judea and the streets of Jerusalem with the apostles and many other people, and he continues to walk alongside us.

Breaking Bread at Emmaus
Basilica of St. John Bosco, Colle Don Bosco
4th lesson:  “While he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (24:30-31).  Do those 2 verses remind you of anything?  It’s the classic formula of the Eucharist.  With these 2 disciples Jesus probably was starting an ordinary meal and giving the standard Jewish meal blessing, but the Eucharistic language tells us that we recognize Jesus, we find Jesus, we come to know Jesus in the sacred liturgy.  It’s not enuf to read or listen to the Word of God, as important as that is; nor to pray privately, as essential as that is.  We also must take part in the Eucharist if we wish to know Jesus and be part of his company, be among his disciples.

In this Eucharist that we’re celebrating this evening, we meet Jesus—in the sacrament of his Body and Blood and in the sacred Scriptures.  We offer to him our lives, especially those parts of our lives that are most challenging, the parts that are mysteries to us, confident that he makes our difficulties and our mysteries meaningful.  And we ask him to be our constant companion as we go thru life, until we reach our final destination, our Father’s home in heaven.

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