Saturday, April 5, 2008

On The Way

(3rd Sunday of Easter, A)

The Resurrection is a matter of eternity. Like all the mysteries of our Lord’s Incarnation, from his Nativity, through his teaching and healing to his Passion and death, the Resurrection is the eternity of God breaking into our world and personal history by means of the humanity of Christ. And because the Resurrection is a matter of eternity, it is just as present and fresh to us as it was to the first disciples. The Resurrection is just as real right now, in this place, as it was on that first Easter evening we heard about in the Gospel, or at Pentecost when Peter made the great speech we heard in the first reading. Therefore we can read the accounts of the experience of the Risen Lord that come to us in the Scriptures as about us too. Since the Risen Lord is just as present now as he was to the first disciples, we can read ourselves into the Scriptures. And the Gospel of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, which we hear today, provides a beautiful example of how the Risen Lord is present to us on the way.

For we all are on the way, we are all on the journey of our personal history, of the histories of our families and communities, and of the secret, inner journey of our path with God in prayer. And just like he does for the disciples on the way in the Gospel, the Risen Jesus comes and walks with us. Though we seldom recognize this Presence with us, he is faithfully there. And what does he do? He encourages us to recount and reflect on our journey: “What are you discussing as you walk along?” The Presence with us that calls us to reflect on our life with God and to call us to prayer, this is the Presence of the Risen Lord walking with us on the way.

And though perhaps we still don’t always recognize him, if we are faithful to this journey of prayer and reflection, we find that our understanding grows. We start to see glimpses of the great mystery of God. As the Gospel puts it today, “he opened the Scriptures” for the two disciples. And this will happen for us too, if we allow ourselves the dialogue with God which is the prayer of people on the way.

As our minds and hearts are opened to the Presence of the Risen Lord, as we “taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” we will want him to stay with us, and like the disciples in the Gospel we will want to sit at table with the Lord and have him break bread for us. And that is what we do in this Eucharist!

Here, in this assembly, just as Jesus took, blessed, and broke bread for those two disciples on the first Easter evening, he does so with us. And it is in this “breaking of the bread” that we see most clearly the abiding presence of Jesus with us. For in the Eucharist, the same Body which was broken for our salvation on the cross is broken for our nourishment, and the same Blood which was poured out for the forgiveness of sins on the Cross is poured out for the ratification of the new and eternal covenant. The humanity of Christ, which death could not hold on to, is risen into this assembly, into the bread and wine of this Eucharist. Before this mystery we stand in awe at the “sublime humility” of the God who, as St. Francis said, “hides himself under the little form of bread.”

But let’s not forget what happened to those two disciples in the Gospel when they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread—he “vanished from their sight.” This is one of the great challenges of the spiritual life, that as soon as we feel like we’ve come to an experience or an understanding God, God seems to retreat from us. As soon as we are able to say, “Wow, I get it, or I’ve had an experience of God,” it’s gone, and we feel like we don’t get it, like we’re not sure what we mean by “God.” But this is not an abandonment, but an invitation. For this is the way that God invites us to go deeper into ourselves, into who we really are, and to hear him calling us at a new level closer to our true identity.

If we are faithful to this journey, faithful to the walking on the way with God, even when it seems like we are being led into incomprehensible darkness, this is where we find pure faith. And we will begin to hear God calling us at our deepest and truest identity, which is, after all, the humanity of the Christ.

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