4 May 2014, SFX Bulletin: We have all experienced disappointments with the Church or with our faith. We may be upset that our fellow church-goers are “too holy” or “not holy enough” or we may wish that Jesus could be more visible so that it would be easier to believe in him. Whatever our disappointments, today’s gospel on the post-resurrection Emmaus journey gives us an important lead on how to overcome the challenges we all encounter in faith.
The gospel writer Luke tells us that Cleopas and another disciple had decided to put Jesus and Jerusalem behind them. They were going to nurse their disappointments in Emmaus – a place named after its “warm springs”. As Jesus joined them, (they could not yet recognize him in his glorified body), they revealed their disappointment over Jesus’ “failed” mission, “…Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free…”(v.21). For them, the news of the empty tomb brought by the women was yet another disappointment that started with Jesus’ arrest leading to his death on the cross.
In response, Jesus admonished their spiritual ignorance despite being his disciples, “You foolish men!”. He then took them through Scripture – the place where they should have searched for an understanding of God’s plans instead of simply wallowing in self-pitiying hurts, “...starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself…” (v.27).
Like the disciples, we all have our own versions of Emmaus – soothing comforts - maybe even of a generally spiritual nature - that lure us away from searching and corroborating divine truths in scripture with scripture as Jesus did with his two disciples – going through “passages throughout Scripture”. Jesus’ approach reveal to us the importance of studying and knowing the Word of God. Together, Scripture, Living Tradition and the teachings of the Magisterium form our Catholic deposit of faith. They are the saving truths Jesus gave to the apostles to be handed down so that man can know the Trinity and be assured that Jesus is with us until the end of time (cf. Mt.28:20).
If we realize today that we are heading towards Emmaus, Pope Emeritus advises us to invite Jesus to walk with us and help us grow a robust faith, “This drama of the disciples of Emmaus appears like…a situation of many Christians of our time: it seems that the hope of faith has failed. Faith itself enters a crisis because of negative experiences that make us feel abandoned and betrayed even by the Lord. But this road…can become the way of a purification and maturation of our belief in God…today we can enter into dialogue with Jesus, listening to his Word. Today, too, he breaks bread for us and gives himself as our Bread. And so the meeting with the Risen Christ that is possible even today gives us a deeper and more authentic faith…a faith that is robust because it is nourished not by human ideas but by the Word of God and by his Real Presence in the Eucharist (6 April, 2008).
Like the disciples, we live life limited by our temporal and personal hopes. Jesus lived his life and died his death not for his own glory but for ours. St. Peter reminds us that Jesus has now made a place for each one of us in our heavenly home. As such, “…be scrupulously careful as long as you are living away from your home. Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down…paid…in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ..” (1 Peter 1:17-19).
In this 50-day Easter season, Jesus invites us to renew our joy in him. In Holy Mass, he does for us what he did for the two disciples – opening up the Scriptures in the Liturgy of the Word and breaking bread in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. May our hearts “burn” and may we “recognise” him. Let us help each other overcome disappointments by affirming faith, “Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen…we have heard…we have seen…we have looked upon, and our hands have handled…the Word of life” (Lk.24:34; 1 Jn 1:1).