3rd Sunday of Easter (26th April 2020)
As mentioned last week, the Post Resurrection accounts of the Risen Lord are intriguing; they detail a series of encounters between the Jesus and his followers which are steeped in mystery. If you take a literal interpretation of the ancient scripts, many questions and contradictions will immediately surface; e.g. how could the Lord enter through the doors of the room where the disciples were hiding and greet them!! How could Mary Magdalene not recognise the risen Lord near the tomb!!
The Emmaus story is one of my favourite accounts. Educationalists will say that the way the story is structured represents a powerful means of coming to greater awareness and happens for the 2 disciples.
Read Gospel: Luke 24:13-35
The opening verses set the scene: two of the disciples heading home to the village of Emmaus after the horrendous happenings of Good Friday, now coupled with rumours beginning to circulate concerning the ‘First Day of the Week’ and mysterious appearance of the Lord.
They disciples are obviously sad and forlorn. Jesus greets them; but strangely they don’t recognise him. He engages them in conversation by asking,
‘What are you talking about?’.
They are somewhat surprised by the question; after all the major talking point all that weekend in Jerusalem centred around the execution of a man who had emerged as a focus of attention over the previous few years as a result of his declarations, teachings, and healings.
“Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
As if Jesus didn’t know; he asks,
They proceed to give him a pretty detailed account of all that had happened concerning Jesus of Nazareth. You might imagine that this ‘stranger’, would be impressed with their answer. Rather, he seems to reprimand them:
“Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart
to believe all that the prophets have declared!
In other words, he seems to be suggesting, that if they had been really tuned in, knew the Scriptures and listened to the teachings of the Lord when he was amongst them; they would not have been surprised by all that had happened to the Christ.
Jesus then begins to input; explain and situate the weekend events within a broader context,
‘Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them the things about himself
in all the scriptures.’
But in terms of comprehending what he said, reading between the lines, the two disciples ‘still don’t get it’, they are still confused. Yet they are so taken by this stranger, that when they arrive home, they invite him to join them for supper. Jesus sits at table with them, takes a chunk of bread,
‘he blessed and broke it, and gave it to them’
and WOW, it all falls into place!!! They immediately understand; they suddenly realise who the stranger is,
‘Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him;
and he vanished from their sight.’
They are overjoyed,
‘Were not our hearts burning within us
while he was talking to us on the road,
while he was opening the scriptures to us?’
Even though they hadn’t initially recognised the stranger, they still had an ‘inner sense’ that it was the Lord, and now they know. The statement would seem to point to a sense we sometimes have of knowing something inwardly and yet not being able to consciously verbalise it. No matter how hard one tries, it still won’t surface, and then miraculously when we have stopped trying to figure it out, a simple occurrence provides the key to enlightenment.
It would seem that such was the case for the two disciples,
The lines from a lovely book entitled, Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke come to mind. When the young man wrote to the poet for advice about writing, he writes back and counsels him.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
Whenever I read the Emmaus story, I’m reminder of a magical experience I had myself many years ago when I lived in Furbo.
One dreary wet & dreary Summers evening, a knock come to the door of my residence. Outside were five miserable cyclists, drenched to the skin. One of the group enquired in very poor English if it might be possible to bunk up in the ‘Sean Scoil’ ins na Forbacha. The building wasn’t in great shape at the time, but to their great relief, I told them, they were welcome to use the premises. As they were about to head back to the school, I mentioned that if they would like to join me for a bite to eat, supper would be served in one hours’ time. I dashed down to the local shop, got a supply of sausages, rashers, bread etc. Lo and behold in a more refreshed state, they trooped into the kitchen and sat at table while I busied myself over the grill and the pan. As I weaved my magic wand over the food, I wondered in my mind what country they hailed from and what was their story.
When I was nearly ready to serve the meal, I noticed one member of the group taking a slice of the sliced-pan, breaking it and handing a piece to each of the other four. They held up the five pieces of bread, and said a word; it sounded like ‘Shalom’.
Immediately, I felt a deep sense of recognition with my heart. It was a lovely feeling; even though we couldn’t converse in word, and they were total strangers, yet I sensed that I was amongst friends. The words from Luke came to mind;
‘they recognised him
in the Breaking of Bread’.
It was one of those ‘eureka moments’ During their short sojourn with me, I had consciously refrained from asking them questions about themselves; at the same time I inwardly wondered & gradually, without noticing it, while I slaved over the cooker,
I ‘grew into the answer’.
In this present time, the means through which the disciples came to awareness is powerfully significant. We are living in uncertain times; living at the mercy of a minute but deadly virus. We carry within our hearts many questions and there is a certain annoyance surfacing with the lack of firm answers.
Yet perhaps the answers are not as remote as we might imagine.
They may be screaming at us, but the global community
is not yet seriously committed enough towards.....
‘living the question’