Is anyone here directionally challenged? You could not find your way out of a paper bag? Maybe your life is going in the wrong direction.
Let us use this idea of going in the wrong direction as the foundation for this wonderful Easter story of the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Emmaus? Has anyone who has gone to the Holy Land ever visited this town named in the Bible? I doubt it because scholarship has not determined where it is. One school of thought is that Emmaus was the place of a Roman garrison- a symbol of power, military might and political esteem. After all the Romans had the power to put Jesus to death. In any case, the disciples are going from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They are going away from the city of Jerusalem where Jesus the Christ showed His power in a way that is very different than worldly power. Jerusalem is city of the cross.. path of suffering love.
Very emphatically we can say that the two disciples are going in the wrong direction. These two disciples really represent ALL of us who are followers or learners at the feet of Jesus the Teacher and Master. We very much prefer to go in the direction of security AND all that this word encompasses: physical security/defense systems; financial security; political and even religious security with its possible manifestation of an attitude of superiority and arrogance. All of us, myself included, tend to walk the wrong way and seek security and power from the world rather than security in God. Think about your own life and examples of how you do this.
This journey takes place on the first day of the week, the day when God began the work of the Creation of the world. It is the day when Jesus the Christ begins the work of the re-Creation of the world. And even as we walk the wrong way, Jesus comes to us. Jesus drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. It is not easy to recognize God when you are walking the wrong way. This can apply to our Moral life… if you are caught up in yourself and focus on what you want, you won’t understand.
They stop and ask a Him a question in response to His query about what they are talking about as they walk. Isn’t that ironic… the only person who does not know? He’s THE only person who does know what he is about.
They know data. The facts are absolutely correct about Jesus the Nazarene. They don’t get pattern to make the data coherent.
I just returned from a trip to Washington, DC with St. Mary’s School 8th grade class. One of the places that we visited was the National Holocaust Museum. Very powerful. The teacher emphasized that it is not just about killing more than 6 million Jews and other undesirables. The Nazis relied on the vast majority of “bystanders” as the museum names them. These are good people who saw the atrocities that were going on and they did nothing. Some were Christians who failed to live the sacrifice of love for any brother or sister in need. There is a pattern that any good teacher would want us to see in history and in humanity. There were also the righteous ones who did sacrifice their security and lives in order to help. These were at the end of the museum.
How many of us can rattle off the facts about Jesus, but fail to not only to know the pattern, but LIVE the pattern. The way of Jesus is the path of suffering love.
That’s why he says “O, how foolish you are. How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke.”
Jesus states the Pattern – “was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory? Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted what is in what we call the Old Testament that referred to Him.
In DC, at the Basilica of National Shrine of Immaculate Conception, there are beautiful rosary windows in the apse. (15 – the number of mysteries when the church was built). The windows above are the mysteries of the rosary; below are windows of Old Testament stories connected to the particular mystery. The key to the Old Testament is the pattern of Jesus’ own life. The pattern of self-sacrificing love is in the entire WORD of GOD. Were not our hearts burning as he opened the Scriptures for us? As He opened the Scriptures, their hearts begin to burn. Bible becomes alive once you know how to read it.
We conclude with a Sacramental presentation of the pattern. He took Bread, said the blessing and broke it. The Eucharist is suffering love of Jesús. And then, their Eyes were opened.
Yesterday, we celebrated First Holy Communion with 62 of our young people. Please stand. They received this sacramental gift for the first time. We have a responsibility to teach them to grow in their understanding that this is the Real Presence of Jesus, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. They have a long way to go before they “get it.” How far do we have to go or do we get it?
Can we like the saints recognize His presence in our sufferings? Can we actually choose His path of sacrificial love not out of some heroic self-aggrandizing act, or God forbid some morbid sadistic notion, but in imitation of God, of Jesus who sacrificed His life out of Love for all humanity?
When their eyes were opened, these two disciples “got it.” They returned to Jerusalem. They went in the right direction. They chose the path of self sacrificing love.
This story on the road to Emmaus is our Mass. We encounter Christ in the breaking open of the Scriptures in the liturgy of the Word AND also in the breaking of the bread – the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
He sends us forth – to go to Jerusalem… to follow Him in the path of self-sacrificing love.