WITHIN CONVERSATION THE LORD OFTEN SURPRISES US.
There is nothing better than to have a good conversation with a friend about something that bothers us. These days, we generally do it over a cup of Coffee, accompanied by a couple of lovely Hot Doughnuts with a generous dusting of Cinnamon Sugar.
However, Doughnuts and Coffee is not always the appropriate scene for some conversations, especially when we are dealing with a confusing, tragic and confounding situation in which the two Disciples are depicted in today Gospel….a reflective walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus! (About 7 miles!) Once again, while we read the Gospel, we don’t do it to obtain facts, we read it slowly, reflectively and with curiosity, so that we try not miss anything! The strange thing is, we always miss something, and the next time that we reflectively read the Scriptures, something else will pop out at us, because the Scriptures are the ever green Word of God.
Keeping that in mind, we don’t need to examine it like a Geologist reading every layer in a sedimentary rock shelf……it is not a clinical read, it is a ‘burning’ read! Let’s hang on to that description, because we will savour it a bit later on in this realhomilie.
Now, as I have suggested before, let’s go deep sea diving into the Scriptures: Notice that it was two Disciples who were on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus…..How many miles from Jerusalem? Seven! So, as these two friends of Jesus are on a journey from Jerusalem…..let’s pick up on the seven miles! In Biblical reading, we need to be curious about symbolism, because it has been written using various literary forms of the day, and with Biblical tradition behind it. What else has happened in Biblical terms using the number seven? Well, seven is seen as the perfect number in Scripture, and remember that creation took seven days, and on the first day of the new week…God rested. No he was not worn out because of all the creating, God paused, God reflected upon the unfolding mystery of creation, in short God gazed!!!!! We all gaze from time to time. After I have mowed the lawn, I stand back and gaze: I’m not patting myself on the back for such a nice job, I am gazing at the beauty of the lawn, and the surrounding garden and taking it all in. I bet that there are lots of ‘life events’ in which you ‘gaze’ as well. We gaze at a new born baby, we gaze on our loved one taking their last breath. Let’s fortify that contemplative element, because it continues to make us into thankful human beings; in short, Eucharistic people.
So, with these two Disciples, a new creation is about to happen in them, and the catalyst will be Jesus. In their walk, they were deeply involved in reflective conversation about what had been happening to Jesus in recent days, and what other people were saying about these events. As was the custom in those days, if other people were walking in the same direction, they would catch up and chat with them along the way…..that’s a beautiful thing to do. However, nowadays, if I was to do that in Sydney or you were to do it where ever you live in the world, we would be probably arrested by the Police!
As we journey along together in conversation with each other, about ‘deep down things’, the Lord often walks with us, and sometimes we are not really aware of Him. In the midst of our confusion, agitation and sense of dilemma, the Lord asks us questions to help us to clarify matters. In this case, the two disciples did not recognise that it was Jesus, and that is a didactic tool used here in the Scriptures, because the real awakening and realisation as to how the stranger will be recognised takes place after another important event which will happen at their destination. The content of their conversation with the hidden Lord, is fantastic! They could really empty their minds and hearts to Him, just as we can do the same…..Jesus wants to hear from us! He is not one of those people who tells you the answer to the question before you have asked the question!!!!
The Disciples were able to tell the stranger, who was slowly becoming a friend to them, all their hopes and dreams, and the hopes and dreams for Israel……God’s Children. Then they speak about the confounding words of the women who had been to the empty tomb, and the Angel of the Lord had prompted them to know that He was alive!
The next part of the Gospel really can blow our minds. Jesus tells them outright, that they were on the wrong track……yes, they were on the right track in going this way to Emmaus, but they were on the wrong track about ‘getting’ the real message and mission of Jesus. Here, it is important from us to realise that so often, WE ARE the two disciples on the road to the Emmaus! We are sometimes on the wrong track and have to listen and really hear the message from Jesus, in order to ‘wake up’ that Jesus IS the human face of the Father, and that He walks with us in His living Body – the Church. Furthermore, when it comes to Jesus knowing us, we can never be lost in the crowd!
You know that being with friends in solid conversation, times flies…..it was the same for the two disciples. They had ‘warmed’ to Jesus and they pressed him to partake of their hospitality! But, it turned out to be Our Lord’s hospitality within ‘the breaking of the bread’ that their eyes were ‘opened’. As we go back through the Scriptures, many times the eyes of people were ‘opened’ they could then see things clearly, they could then see that the saving hand of God was alive and at work in Jesus, and that experience of Salvation invigorated, renewed and enabled them through the power of the Spirit, to go out and live, what they had experienced, and proclaim the message, that the Kingdom of God is near.
After the elusive Jesus vanishes from their midst, his seeming absence enabled the two Disciples, the early Church and us today, to carefully reflect on what had happened. In fact this is a ‘gazing time’ for the two disciples, to savour the Risen Lord’s presence, guidance and future sustenance through ‘the breaking of bread’, the Eucharistic Meal. Within their reflective moments, the disciples were able to say, ‘Did not our hearts, burn within us, as he unravelled the Scriptures for us?’ This question is for all time! We have all experienced that ‘burning’ within us during our life. In terms of our Christian Spirituality, it is the result and action that defies clinical proof. Why? Because we just know it! Look at the times in your life as I look at mine when we recall those ‘special’ moments, as we brush along the membrane which is that fine veil between Heaven and Earth. We can return to those moments at any time we like, and we should do that as part of our Review of Life. The result will not be a warm fuzzy feeling, but more importantly, that grace enables us to help and walk with others on the road of life towards our Heavenly Father. I believe that ‘spiritual sensitivity and wholesome living’ is the bi product of ‘graced moments’ of encounters with the Lord, the Saints, and our own Saints, our dearly departed. We must remember that we are but a breath away from them. We ought to be alert to the possible times of pressing against the membrane between Heaven and Earth, but also to be Christ within our sisters and brothers, so that their hearts may burn within them, as they too recall and re member, those moments of grace. The word re member is a powerful word, it means to ‘bring back into mind’ which speaks of a real presence of mind, not the recall of our 5 times tables; my pet Parrot could do that better than me. Therefore, to remember in the Biblical sense, is to bring back together in a ‘real presence’ which is non clinical, but real, and it burns within us! It is a human, spiritual experience, which conversations through Text messages, Twitter and the like are on the wrong track for a complete understanding of this revelation……we need to be one to one, or within a conversational group, so that all aspects of our communication skills can be on alert and in tune, emoji’s won’t deliver the depth of meaning.
Finally, we all love to share good news, it’s in our human nature. See, the two disciples were the same…..they raced back to confirm what they had heard earlier, and what they had experienced in recognising the Lord as the unseen companion, the Breaker of the Bread, and the One who always walks with God’s people.
I would like to conclude with a short yet powerful reflection from the Glenstal Bible Missal, Third Sunday after Easter year A, Page 293.
‘We thank God our Father, for his Son, Jesus Christ. When the Father offered him the cup of bitter suffering he opened for him the way to life. We share in the cup of that Son’s death, may our hearts burn within us as he talks to us on the way.’
Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia