Third Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2020
Today, in Luke’s gospel, we have one of the most loved stories in sacred scripture – the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus and their encounter with Jesus.
Let us take a closer look at the story. Jesus, the friend, teacher, miracle worker, healer has died. His followers were inspired and hopeful that in some way he would help the people of Israel to change – giving them a future full of hope and possibility. He was physically abused, crucified, dead and he was buried. The disciples were heading home – two of them walking together and sharing their struggles. They had heard the rumor that the body of Jesus was gone and that he had risen from the dead! But it did not touch them – it did not lift them out of their sadness and disappointment.
As they walk home – they are confused – sad – disappointed - discouraged – their hope has disappeared. They are empty. Into this pain, disillusionment and this emptiness comes Jesus. He meets them on the road – in their suffering – he meets them where they are at. We are told he shares the Word of God – sacred scripture with them. He speaks of God’s plans/promises, God’s presence and God’s activity. At a certain point in their journey, they stop for a rest and some food. They invite their guest to stay. We are told he shares a meal with them and when he breaks the bread, they suddenly understand – Jesus is alive! He is not dead! Their hearts come alive – they say their hearts are burning when Jesus was speaking to them.
Their awareness of newness, of life prompts them to turn around, after such a long journey and they head back to Jerusalem – traveling in the darkness. They share their experience with the disciples and their story becomes a part of the bigger story – a story of new life.
Throughout history we, as Christians, have been gathering stories of Jesus – stories of new life. In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. we have the blunt and yet powerful testimony of Peter – proclaiming to all that Jesus is risen from the dead. Peter makes it clear that death had no power over Jesus because he is about life!
In our second reading we hear from Peter as he writes to the early Christians. He tells them that neither their present nor their past can hold them down. Christ is risen from the dead. In Peter’s letter it is clear that Jesus leads us into relationship with God.
As this great season of Easter continues to unfold we, the Church, tell again and again the great stories of our beginnings/our origins. We tell stories of illness and healing. We tell stories of disappointment and hope. We tell stories of suffering and joy. We tell stories of absence and presence. These are stories from the early Church but they are also our stories today.
From time to time our lives are filled with illness and healing, with disappointment and hope, with suffering and joy, with absence and presence. These experiences are part of our human journey.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus were lost – somehow God was absent. Or so they thought. They were surprised when God came to them in their emptiness. Luke is clear that they did not recognize Jesus. He looked like an ordinary traveler. For the most part we experience God in and through our senses – through nature – through events and ordinary people. Often times we recognize, after the fact, that God was present – that God was with us.
Right now, we are experiencing things that we have never experienced before. We are required to self-isolate, to find new ways to communicate, to support one another and to pray. We are required to take care of each other – regardless of our background, belief system, economic status, language, religion, or job skills!
The scriptures remind us that God is present even if we cannot see God. God found the disciples not in some room at prayer. No, God found them on the road when they were down and out! We are invited to believe that God is looking for us and coming to us in our sorrow and our struggle. God is not waiting for everything to be good again! God is here with us now!
Today, in addition to being the Third Sunday of Easter, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel – a title that suggests Mary gives good advice. The Catholic Women’s League of Canada have Our Lady of Good Counsel as their patroness. Mary does not answer our prayers – Jesus does! We believe that Mary always leads us to Jesus. She always suggests that we should listen to him and do what he tells us!
The members of the Catholic Women’s League pay attention to Mary! Like Jesus, they are intent on making a difference! The CWL members go to where there is a need and they look for ways to help! They are not concerned about whether or not the folks are Catholic – they are concerned about proclaiming the Good News to those who are in need.
As our day unfolds, let us take heart – God is looking for us! As our day unfolds, let us take heart – God needs us to look out for one another. Do we know some folks who are walking along a lonely road, away from friends, away from hope; some folks who are in need of a companion?
Would we dare to walk with them and share the fire that is burning in our hearts? Would we dare to share with them our trust in the Lord who has died and is risen? Would we dare to look for them and meet them where they are at with the news that there is hope for all people?
Let us take a moment and honor our Lady of Good Counsel, the work of the Catholic Women’s League and our call to walk with one another along the roads of suffering, disappointment and loss!
Sing Immaculate Mary
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI