Mercy abides in all times of strife
I want to come back to a favorite passage of mine in Scripture as we enter this great season of Easter, the feast of feasts. I want to look at the disciples on the road to Emmaus – Luke 24:13-35.
These two disciples of Jesus decide to leave Jerusalem; these are men who are disillusioned, angry, frightened, deeply discouraged. In a matter of days, they have moved from a hope and confidence in the Messiah to a place of crushing loss. “We thought he was the one,” they said. “We hoped he was the one to redeem Israel.” BUT: It is now the third day since this happened …” In other words, there is no hope. It is the third day since his death. Jesus is really dead! “This Jesus was not the one we had hoped for – he, this Jesus of Nazareth, is dead so he cannot be the longed for one.” And so they do what we often do when we have endured a very painful shock. They go back, back to Emmaus, back to what is familiar, back to what was part of their old life before they became disciples. They leave the community of believers.
How many times in life have we experienced a similar blizzard of conflicting emotions and thoughts, a sense of loss and sometimes, yes, real or seeming betrayal? We can’t think straight at all. It is no time to make major decisions, but these men do what a lot of us do: “I’m out of here.” There’s too much fear, too much confusion, too much loss.
It is precisely when these men are in that frame of mind that Jesus begins to walk along with them. They don’t recognize him, because they don’t expect him. He is dead, isn’t he? But Jesus walks along with them and, over the next while, teaches them from the Old Testament about the Messiah; he “opens the Scriptures to them.” By the word, he opens their frightened and disillusioned hearts and spirits and minds to the Truth that genuinely sets people free.
Later, when they ask him not to leave, but to stay with them, Jesus breaks bread with them in the Eucharist and their eyes were opened and they began to realize who he was – and then, right then, when they actually recognize him, he disappears from their sight!
That instruction from the word of God and that food enabled them. Right away, that night, they return to Jerusalem to pound on the door where the other disciples were hiding in fear of the authorities, and to exclaim what had happened to them on the road to Emmaus.
Brothers and sisters: Look at God’s mercy! That same mercy is available to us all. Particularly, I want to speak to those of you who are carrying very heavy crosses right now and may be faltering in your faith: “Where is God? Why did he let this (whatever it is) happen?”
In this Easter season, I ask you to bring your cross: your loss or betrayal or failure. Perhaps it is a cross made of poor health, economic difficulties, death of loved ones – whatever it is, I want to encourage you to bring this pain to the foot of the cross – his cross. Lay your cross down under the shadow of his cross so that you might begin, even in the midst of , to know the tremendous power of Christ’s resurrection, raising you up with new faith and new hope.
There are two ways from this 24th Chapter of Luke that we can learn how to “access” the faith and the hope and the love that God wants to impart to each of us in our particular circumstances:
1 Read slowly Chapters 14-17 of the Gospel of John. See what Jesus tells and promises his disciples – that includes you and me.
2 Come before the Blessed Sacrament as often as you can and read his word – especially Luke 24 and Psalms 8 and 51. Gratitude and repentance where needed help us to be open to God’s grace.
3 Receive the Eucharist as often as you can. God will nourish you on his body and blood and that will strengthen you to continue the journey.
The steps I am giving you are the very steps that are described in Luke 24:13-35. That Gospel passage is given us to show us how our Lord brought frightened and disillusioned disciples back into union with him and with one another. May this be a blessed Easter season for you and may you know the new life that God wishes to give you.