8 May 2011
Acts of Apostles 2:14, 22-28
1 Peter 1:17-21
Luke 24: 13-35
Some time ago I was visiting a family and one morning the mother was sending 2 of her children to school. After a kiss and a hug for each, her final words of advice were: ‘Remember you never, never talk to strangers’. Unfortunately in nearly all cultures today this is very necessary advice.
What would have happened in the gospel today if the two disciples had refused to talk to the stranger who appeared at their side and started to converse with them? He noticed that they were very sad and downhearted and asked them what they had been talking about that had caused this. We know the answer from today’s gospel, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know about the things that have been happening there these last few days’. And they describe what happened to Jesus. This leads to a frank and profound dialogue that set their cold hearts on fire with insight and inspiration. All because they trusted a stranger and were open to inform and be informed by him.
In their disappointment and sadness they say to this stranger ‘our hope had been that he would have been the one to set Israel free’.
What of us today? What are our hopes? Do we hope that Jesus will set us free not from the Romans as in the case of the Jews of Jesus’ time but from fears, prejudices, from looking at reality in a wrong way, from our inability to forgive etc.
Cleopas and his companion shared with the stranger all the way through. Not only were they ready to share their confidences with him, but they went all the way and shared their meal and shelter with him. It was in the process of this sharing that the moment of disclosure occurred and they suddenly realised that the one whom they had accepted all along as a stranger was indeed Jesus, the answer to all their heart’s questions. This discovery that the one in whom they had trusted, Jesus Christ, was indeed alive and not dead, gave new meaning to their lives, their faith and their vocation. Banishing all fear and fatigue they went back that same night to rejoin the apostles and followers of Jesus and share the good news with them that they had met the risen Lord and that they met him in the person of a stranger.
It is important to note that Jesus explained to the two companions all the scriptures had spoken about him. So it was in breaking the Word of God for them that opened their eyes also. He did not speak only about the wonderful things God had done for his people and is still doing for us. He spoke of the suffering which was part of his own human experience.
“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory”. It is may be enough easy to speak generally about the cross in life. But when it touches our own lives we may wonder where God is. Yet in genuinely trying to do God’s will, suffering will come our way, as for example when we try to be faithful in marriage, be honest, forgive, show kindness to all we meet etc. Then we may expect in faith that we will also share in the resurrection of Jesus and not only when we die. We ought to pray for all priests each week that they would have the gift of preparing their homilies well by prayer so as to be able to break the Word of God for their Sunday congregations. They owe it to them to do this. It is not an option but indeed a serious obligation.
When Jesus went in with the 2 disciples for a meal, he breaks the bread in his own special way and immediately they recognize him in this action. We are told that their eyes were opened. It might be good for us to ask the Lord to open our eyes too to recognize him in his Word and in the sacrament of his Body and Blood each time we take part in the celebration of Mass.
The problem for us is that nearly always God appears to us in so ordinary ways, in so ordinary people and actions each day. If we fail to see him in these and wait for extraordinary signs we may never encounter him.
The resurrection was for Jesus the dividing line between earthly life when he was limited to the form of a male Jewish body, and his risen life when he is no longer limited in this way. The risen Lord now appears in all types of bodies: male and female, White and Black, young and old, rich and poor, those with special needs, native and immigrant, Catholic and Protestant, Christian and Muslim, liberal and conservative etc. Though we may see those who are different from us as strangers, today’s gospel challenges us to start seeing them simply as companions on the way. When we reach out to them in hospitality we reach out to God and so receive his blessing.
‘Lord Jesus, open our eyes to recognise you in the breaking of the Word of God and at the breaking of the bread at each Eucharist. May we also see you in the strangers in our midst. Amen’.
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA