They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’Luke 24:32
Beloveds, like the disciples in the Gospel for the Third Sunday in Easter, Year A, Luke 24:13-35, has your heart been burning within you for some time? For those into superheroes and borrowing from Peter Parker, have your ‘Spidey senses’ been tingling? Has something just been tugging at you for a while now and you didn’t know how to explain it? Well, I’m here to say it’s hasn’t been indigestion, it hasn’t been gas (the Caribbean explanation for any strange feeling we have). It’s been Christ who’s been with you. It is Jesus Christ who’s been revealing Himself to you.
This week’s Gospel entitled the Walk to Emmaus, is quite a story of encounter with God. In this week’s Gospel, we are told that, on the day of the Resurrection, two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were trying to come to terms with all that they had experienced over the preceding days: they had witnessed the mockery of a trial of the one who, they thought, would redeem Israel, the One who was tortured and crucified like a common criminal. They had witnessed the darkness that had befallen the earth as this Jesus whom they had been following inched closer and closer to His death, when finally, He would say, ‘Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit’. Now, they were trying to understand how all this reconciled with what the women who visited the tomb that morning had told them: that they did not find Jesus’ body at the tomb, rather, they met angels who said that Jesus was alive. Added to this, when some of the disciples did go to the tomb, they too found Jesus’ body gone. Seriously, what was this fantastic story all intended to reveal? What did it mean?
A Lost Hope
Now, here they are, walking to Emmaus, away from Jerusalem, away from the rest of the disciples, away from the Body of Christ. Sandy Wanzeck of the St John Vianney Theological Seminary, Lay Division, in Denver, Colorado, USA, in her article entitled, Hope and Healing on the Road to Emmaus, commenting on the disciples’ walking away from Jerusalem towards Emmaus, describes the disciples as having ‘fallen away’. They had ‘fallen away’, because their hope in Jesus, whom they now called prophet, she goes on to highlight, seemed to have been in vain. In verse 21, they lament to Jesus whom they had been kept from recognising, ‘we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel’. They must have been asking themselves what was the use in holding on? What was the use in continuing to believe? What was the use? What had the past years been at all, only now to find themselves in a place with so many loose ends? Is God not a god of completion? So, if the story of this Jesus whom they had been following, this one who was ‘mighty in deed and word before God and all the people’ as they say in verse 19 had ended with so many loose ends, perhaps He wasn’t really of God.
Dear ones, I don’t judge them for their for their doubt; I sympathise. I sympathise because many times, we, as we are emerging from our trials, as we are emerging from our resurrection, in the face of the seeming silence and God’s seeming inaction, we, like the disciples, stand saddened, wondering what was the use in trusting, in believing, in making this journey all these years. I don’t judge them for, we too, in moments like these, are tempted to drift away from the communion, from the body of faith. We, in moments like these, when our faith grows dim, when we seem to be spinning around in circles, ending right back at a place of seeming defeat, go away dejected until the next best thing comes along. Dear ones, I don’t judge. No, I sympathise. I sympathise because I have been there…perhaps I am there now. I’m sure you too have been there. Perhaps the ‘next best thing’ is another faith community, where we believe greater hope will be found. But I remind you that all faith communities, in order to endure, must pass through testing and moments where hope seems to be lost. Be careful, then of drifting from faith community to faith community and never finding your mooring. Perhaps your ‘next best thing’ is to return to a familiar place or a familiar people – a place and a people from whom you were when you were called to pursue your purpose, to pursue the will of God. Search yourself. How have you turned back, how have you left, how have you given up? How have you even been prevented from seeing Christ in your presence, in your circumstances?
A Call to Return
Dear ones, I’m here to say, you can’t turn back now. In the Gospel, Jesus came near and walked with them. Jesus understood where they were in their journey. Jesus understood that they had come too far to turn back, to return to the way they were, to return to life before the Messiah. Jesus met them at their point of need. He didn’t wait for them to arrive at Emmaus, He joined them on their way to Emmaus.
In the text, we are told that the disciples were kept from recognising Jesus. May I suggest that this was so that they could endure another test – to determine what was in their heart? What would come out when, once again, hope seemed to have faded? And Jesus, hearing their despair, reminded them all that they had witnessed was in due fulfilment of Scripture – from Moses come forward. How have you been reminded of the story, of the ways in which God has been bringing you to this very place? How have you been reminded that all this that you have been experiencing is in fulfilment of God’s word for your life?
In today’s Gospel, the disciples, upon being reminded of all this, invited Jesus to stay with them. Their invitation to Jesus was their decision to turn back towards hope, to hold on to hope. The process of their return to Jerusalem as we see later in the story, began when they invited Jesus to have supper with them. Will you, like the disciples, reach out as the disciples did and invite the Lord in to dine with you? Beloveds, you have spent so much time in the presence of the Lord, will you reach out? Will you ask Him to stay with you?
I urge you, do reach out. You have come too far, for this is the final barrier before your eyes are opened to recognise that He has been there with you all along. Enter into the full communion with Christ, continue to hold on in hope, for hope does not disappoint. Hold on – notwithstanding what you see, notwithstanding what you feel. Hold on and never let go, my friends. Enter into the real communion with Christ. Allow the barrier between you and your testimony, your witness to the world to be broken as Christ breaks bread with you even now. In the Gospel, it was after the bread had been broken that their eyes were opened. In the breaking of the bread, the disciples stepped into genuine communion with Christ. It was at this point that they really and finally accepted who Christ was to them and who they were to Him. And, in the light of that revelation, they, just like the woman by the well about whom we read on the Third Sunday in Lent, they were heartened, they were encouraged to return, to go back to their community in Jerusalem and to share the good news of the Resurrection. And, as they shared with their community, they saw the loose ends tied. They received confirmation that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of Man, the Messiah for their story came together with that of others who had stayed in Jerusalem. As they returned and shared their story, they were able to affirm that our God is, indeed, a god of completion: Jesus Christ had risen that day!
A Call to Completion
Beloveds, this walk, your walk, ends with you returning to your Jerusalem, for you have come too far to go back. This walk towards purpose ends with you returning to ‘Jerusalem’, whatever or wherever that is for you, to share the good news of the Resurrection. This walk ends with you receiving your victory. You are on the right path, return to your community and share the good news.
I have shared with you in the love of the Father, the peace of the Son, and the joy of the Spirit. Amen.
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