Apr. 25, 2020

THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, 2020

Readings: 1st- Acts 2:14, 22-33; 2nd- 1 Pet. 1:17-21; Gospel- Lk. 24:13-35

“STAY WITH US… for it is nearly evening?”

Peter and the eleven disciples stepped out boldly to proclaim the good news of the resurrection. They became emboldened by the Spirit at Pentecost and told of the mighty deeds, wonders, and great signs that Jesus did. The Holy Spirit will always bring a sense of joy and lightness, never oppression. The Holy Spirit never feels heavy which is a hallmark of divine presence in our lives. Think about the situation of the disciples; that doesn’t mean that a particular circumstance isn’t difficult, stressful, or even fearful. But as Christians, doing God’s will comes with a wave of interior peace and calm. For that reason, Peter, who was fearfully hiding in the upper room championed a bold proclamation of the good news. Peter reminded the audience of what David spoke in the Old Testament about the resurrection and how he appealed to God saying, “because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.” Through suffering, the disciples bear witness to this messiah as they strongly affirm, “God raised this Jesus, of this, we are all witnesses.”  

After the resurrection, Christ appeared to different people in ways that they couldn’t recognize him. We see a story of such appearance in today’s gospel as the two disciples move to Emmaus, a distance of about seven miles from Jerusalem. These two disciples are not in a positive mood -frustrated, downcast, anxious. My thought is that these disciples of Jesus were truly traumatized. They had to be beyond downcast. Imagine what they experienced? They were leaving Jerusalem, heading away from their community and social connection. They must have been experiencing some PTSD which made them start talking uncontrollably to Jesus once he got into their midst. They didn’t know it was him, yet they needed to talk, just talk. They share the story of the horrific killing of their master. 

An interesting turn in the story is that Jesus pretends to be unaware of the happenings and ask for more of their stories. One of my favorite lines here is the phrase from Jesus, “What sort of things?” Does Jesus not know the innermost thoughts of our hearts, so why ask what sort of things they are discussing? He knows but He wants us to tell Him, talk to Him. We have to be able to tell God What sort of things we are facing today. Can God ever be ignorant? No, Christ is patient enough to listen to us even when it is the story of how humanity murdered him. He listens. 

In the case of these disciples, their expectations are lost, their hopes dashed since the promised messiah has been murdered. They are so traumatized. They hear different versions of the post-resurrection drama. The story of the women who went to the tomb and came back to narrate that they saw angels who informed them that he has risen as well as the account of some of their members. To these disciples, these stories don’t connect. So, what’s next? They leave Jerusalem for Emmaus -to reboot their former lives. They give up! Emmaus represents hopelessness.

Jesus does two things here: first, he listens to them. He lets them speak their minds. He wants those disciples to narrate their stories. They express their feelings. Then He begins to teach them. Jesus catechizes them. He uses Scriptures to educate them, to explain the meaning of his messianic mission. His death wasn’t the end, rather it was the evening of a new dawn in the lives of believers. His Kingdom can only be established on the Cross. Christ reminds them that suffering does not mean the end of life. 

One significant thing that happened in this encounter is the breaking of the bread. As Jesus stayed with the disciples, he took bread and said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them. This was the climax of what could be described as the Emmaus movie, and like the experience of Peter, James, and John on the mountain of transfiguration, their eyes were opened. They woke up from their lack of understanding. The scales fell from their eyes. This episode also describes our experience at Mass. The Emmaus encounter gives us the beautiful image of the Eucharistic liturgy. We are fed from the table of the word, the Scriptures. Then at the table of the Eucharist, our eyes open. That’s what Jesus did for the Emmaus disciples. 

Think about this expression from these disciples, “Stay with us.” They started off expressing their trauma, “looking downcast.” The time of the day when this is happening is also significant. Scripture says, “for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” From the story of creation, the evening always played a significant role in describing transitions. In relation to the day, the evening is a time when the light begins to fade. The evening is a time when activities begin to slow down. The evening is a period when the energy level is low. One of the persons who did an exegesis on the implications of the evening, Dane Ortlund (2018) once wrote, “The evening, in particular, is associated throughout the OT as the time of expiration, weariness, and the coming of an end.” He cites examples in the Psalms, “My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass” (Ps 102:11/101:12). “I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust” (Ps 109:23/108:23). The gospels use the evening to describe several actions around the mission of Jesus. For the Emmaus disciples, evening captures the state of mind as their day was figuratively getting over. They’re feel rejected before Jesus stepped in.  

The quarantine experience can be likened to the evening in our lives. It is as if the light is dimming. As if we are getting tired. Most of us feel downcast. Like we are on our Emmaus experience, perhaps not reached the destination yet. The question is: What sort of things? What sort of thing is on your heart? He is listening and wants you to speak. He, in turn, will speak to you. Is it possible that Jesus is journeying with you? Is it possible that like these disciples, you are not aware of his presence? Is it possible that you are not able to recognize him because you feel dissipated, depressed, and dejected? Open your heart to Jesus.

Throughout human history, there have always been times of difficulty. Always. Our parents and grandparents suffered wars and plagues or other problems. God has always purified his people and in the end, it’s a grace. Like Peter and the apostles, pray courage from the Holy Spirit. He will enlighten your heart and mind. Ask for interior peace. Keep asking. Yes, the road may be narrow, still, Jesus walks with you. The road may be thorny, yet He walks with you. The road may be long, yet He walks with you. From Good Friday, Easter will certainly be here. 

Pick up your scriptures. Seek the enlightenment from God’s word. Ask Jesus to stay with you on this journey. Ask him to stay with your family during this time. Ask him to give you an understanding beyond what is happening. Jesus brightens the journey. He gives meaning to our meaninglessness, hopes to our hopelessness. He makes the dawn come quick after the evening. He opens our eyes. Jesus will lead you back to Jerusalem, the place of testimony and reunion with your loved ones.