Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Vaya con Dios

GospelLuke 24:13-35

The Hermitage - Assisi

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.
  Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’
  Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.
  When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’
  They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

 The definition of Emmaus is 'warm spring' so it has been suggested by some that these disciples were on their way to a spa town to 'cheer themselves up' - to clear the smell of tragedy and fear from their skin. But they are downcast, and keen to share their grief; eager to speak of Jesus as their leader; open about their desire for their people; and more than willing to walk with a wandering preacher who can give them some hope through the words of scripture. And happy to bring this stranger to the place where they were going to spend the night.

They are not cowards then or running away - they simply do not know what to do with themselves. As a reaction to grief this is probably one of the healthiest - to go to a place where you are safe - to share your grief with a sympathetic ear - to allow yourself to be comforted. They sound like good people.

We 'living in hindsight' people suggest that they should have stayed in Jerusalem - the Holy Place; should have waited it out; should have had some faith in the words of the women. Jesus calls them foolish but are they any worse than the others? And it would appear that his exclamation is more exasperation - as it has been many times with the other apostles and disciples. They are certainly worth tracking down and bringing home. Their hearts still eager for the Word and full of the gift of hospitality for the stranger, as Jesus had asked of them. 

Why didn't Jesus appear more fully to the people who had remained behind in Jerusalem? Because it is the Holy Place? Because there has always been a certainty of faith; of status; because it is no longer about Jerusalem? Luke, as the Gospel writer to the Gentiles makes it clear that Christ is wherever you are and however you are.  The road to Emmaus takes a certain journey through the celebration of the Eucharist; the journey of those who seek him with yearning hearts and without certainty. God cannot be confined; as the Father proved to Abraham by sending his people out so Jesus proves by walking alongside those who need him. 

 Maybe when we are dealing with grief, losing hope, questioning faith, then we do need to wander back into the desert to find our own sacred space.  If we are really searching for Truth then our heart will call to Jesus whether we know it or not. And he will lead us to his table; he will feed us himself.

What Christ gives us is quite explicit if his own words are interpreted according to their Aramaic meaning. The expression 'This is my Body' means this is myself.
Karl Rahner



Philomena Ewing said...

Warm spring - that's a lovely thought and your phrase "to clear the smell of tragedy and fear from their skin" is a great way to visualise them. In our violent world there are many who must be feeling the same way. And you are so right when you say that sacred space is needed - the world makes little provision for it and we need it more than ever.
Lovely post- thank you and blessings

andrewcurtis said...

Yes, this is a lovely and inspiring story. I think it emphasises that God is always seeking us out and only needs us to give him the space to enter. Many thanks for your post.