1. -- Lanie
Carol & Dennis Keller
Brian Gleeson CP
reflection can be here!)
3rd Sunday of Easter 2020
The main accounts in today's readings give us a blueprint
for dealing with difficult times such as we have during the
current pandemic. If we start with the Gospel reading, we
see two grieving disciples, leaning on each other
emotionally while they discussed the events that have turned
their lives upside down. They were trying to figure out the
connection between the Crucifixion and the "missing Jesus" .
Enter the Risen One, the Wise One who joins them
unrecognized, gently asking about their distress. He then
sheds light on the confusing events, enlightening them based
on the now fulfilled Scripture texts of old. They break
bread together and, filled with the Presence of Jesus
internally and externally, they realize who their companion
Off they go, grief and fear gone and replaced by joy,
back to their community in the Upper Room, to share the Good
News. Immediately following (but not related in this week's
readings) is when Jesus appears in the Upper Room and those
present get to experience the Risen Christ together, as a
community. These activities "marinate" so to speak, and what
emerges is the confidence and boldness of the first
disciples. Their "preaching" as expressed so eloquently by
Peter in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, is
why we have the Good News today.
So here we are, too. Where are we, individually, on this
journey from grief and fear to joy? Individually, we are in
different places, going back and forth, in small chunks of
time, trying to make sense of what makes no sense. Our
present reality contains confusing stories, little facts,
the unknown, and certainly changed lives. What do we do?
I think we go back to Jesus who is waiting for us. We
need to connect (with proper distancing or remotely at
first) with some usual companions on our spiritual journey.
We need to listen to each other's stories then beak open the
Word together and listen to the many times Jesus tells us
"do not be afraid." We need to join in virtual Masses,
gathering, breaking open the Word, and join in spiritual
communion, to strengthen our confidence and ignite our
boldness. Yes, it is different from the experience of the
first disciples in some ways, but remarkably similar in
others. It is certainly different from our usual comfort
I can't imagine that Peter pictured himself as such a
strong orator and evangelist as he stood shielding and
averting his eyes from the tortured Jesus! I can't imagine
that the grief-stricken duo on the road to Emmaus thought
they would practically run back to Jerusalem joyfully! I
can't imagine what I will do or what those I know will do!
Jesus knows, Jesus cares. Let us trust in Jesus's ways,
not our own. He will help us reclaim our spiritual strength
and courage to find our "voice" through the power of grace.
Third Sunday of Easter April 26, 2020
Acts 2:14 & 22-23; Responsorial Psalm 16; 1st Peter
1:17-21; Gospel Acclamation Luke 24:32; Luke 24:13-35
This is my favorite gospel of the entire year. The
narrative from Luke’s Gospel teaches us something wonderful
about our individual and communal life journey. This is the
Emmaus story. We celebrate the third Sunday of Easter as a
journey, our journey of faith. Our instruction tells us
Jesus, the Risen Christ, is with us.
Where is God in the terrible events of a global pandemic?
Where can we discover God’s presence as the socio-economic
world of ours comes crashing down as we stand helpless.
Religious leadership waits in the upper room for visitation.
Political leadership acts like a petulant five-year old,
manipulating events and truth for political advantage.
Citizens of means seek our remedies. Ordinary folk can only
mask and stand apart. The marginalized suffer most as they
lack the resources to distance themselves from their
environments. So, where is this risen Christ? What has his
pain and cruel death accomplished?
Some will insist this is God’s punishment for sin. Those
whose faith focus on literalism and fundamentalism teach
that God has grown tired of homosexuality, of abortion, and
of human sexuality returning to paganism. For them, the
pandemic comes from God’s wrath. They think of God as a
heavy-handed tyrant, dishing out favors to those who pander
to him and terrible retribution to those who disregard or
In the joy of the empty tomb, we set expectations of what
God is for us. For many, God is the remedy to all our ills.
God is the construction expert who stretches out the road,
the trajectory of our lives, making it smooth and bump-free.
The difficulty that arises is that we think of God as being
external to us – fixing what is broken, eliminating
obstacles, making creation itself serve our desires and
whims. The constant mistake of humanity is that we insist,
we believe, and we behave as though God is made in our image
The story of Emmaus is filled with instructions for us.
These two – Cleopas and another -- were walking home to
Emmaus, a town seven miles to the west of Jerusalem. At a
walking pace it would have taken a couple of hours to get
there. It seems to be home, the place where the two lived.
The time of day must have been afternoon, since they knew of
the preposterous story of the empty tomb. It was beyond
their ability to believe. No one dead comes back to life.
Surely Jesus was dead – his side had been opened with a
lance and the Roman crucifixion team testified to Pilate
that Jesus was indeed dead and no longer a threat to the
Roman empire – or to the religious and economic leadership
of the Jews. They headed west into the setting sun. As they
came home, it was twilight. It was time to get off the road
lest they become victims of violent thieves. They came to
safety behind their closed doors. Just as hope comes to
human hearts with a rising sun, so also fear and security
are emotions of approaching darkness.
As the two walked along from Jerusalem toward the
darkness of evening, they tried to understand how it
happened that the one they believed was the Messiah could
come to such a terrible end. It was clear to them and to all
Jerusalem that Jesus had died. Just a week earlier, his
entrance into Jerusalem was a new beginning filled with
hopes and expectations that swirled and ran through the
thousands gathered in Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus came
into Jerusalem accepting the shouts of the crowd, Hosanna –
save us oh son of David. To have these hopes suddenly turn
dark – well that was hard to comprehend.
So, the two are walking, hearts and heads downcast
wondering what went wrong. Sure, some women had come with a
story about the empty tomb and a hallucination of seeing
Jesus alive. But these were women and being the weaker sex,
they were easily misled, not so? A stranger came along,
asking what so absorbed them in conversation. Surely this
stranger must have been sleeping through Passover! Was he
the only one who didn’t know what had happened?
The two walk toward home. They are joined by another who
speaks to them, opening their minds to the experience of the
Chosen People, using the writings of history and prophecy to
explain how the Messiah would come and be rejected and yet
triumph. Even though Cleopas and the other were headed into
the dying of the day, the setting sun, they were able to
see, to understand. The Messiah did not come to conquer the
world. He came to the hearts of persons who lived in the
world. In their hearts they would discover God’s presence
and God’s strength and God’s power and love. It would be
their work to live in his loving kindness and make different
whatever they encountered. No matter whether their work was
easy or hard, welcomed or rejected, God would be with them.
The story insists that Jesus is with us even on our most
As this trio came to Emmaus, the stranger wanted to
continue on into the darkness. Cleopas and the other
insisted the stranger stay with them in the safety and
security of their home. As they sat to supper the stranger
gave the blessing common to Jewish households. "God, we give
you thanks for this bread, the fruit of the land and the
work of human hands." In his praying the blessing so
familiar to them, they recognized Jesus. Perhaps it reminded
them of the time Jesus fed five thousand men plus thousands
more women and children. In any case, at that moment they
recognized Jesus. As they recognized him, he disappeared.
Yet, he remained with them, though not visibly so.
They forgot dinner. In shock, they realized the women’s
story of the empty tomb wasn’t a hallucination. They ran
back to Jerusalem, arriving breathless in the upper room.
They ran on the road heading east, toward the rising sun.
Their encounter with Jesus revived their hopes. Even at the
end of the day, when darkness was coming over the land, they
had the energy to return to the upper room to share their
experience with the others. This is a new beginning, there
is the hope of the rising sun.
What are the lessons? Without the Christ, we tend to
darkness, to the setting sun. The meaning of life, of our
lives, is shrouded in darkness. We meander down a road to
hoped-for destinies of security and comfort. We seek safety.
With the Christ, the Risen One, we venture to the place of
God’s presence, to the upper room where we share with
others. When we look at the history of humanity from the
perspective of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, we
discover purpose and direction, meaningful growth and
fulfillment of spirit. Human life is about how each of us
individually and collectively grow in stature of spirit. In
that growth we effectively come to the fullness of the image
and likeness of God that each of us is a unique, one of a
kind person. The Emmaus story is tells us to search and to
always look to the rising sun of hope for ourselves and for
all human kind. In that hope we recreate all of creation,
impressing on it the image and likeness God gives us.
There is another way to look at Emmaus. It is an
explanation of what the church is. Where two or more are
gathered in the name of Jesus, Jesus is present. Where the
Scriptures are proclaimed and explained, Jesus is present.
Where we gather and share a simple meal, even there Jesus is
present. When we come to our community, the community of
believers in the Risen One, there it is we discover hope,
faith, and unconditional love for one another and in that
love, we love God, the Trinity.
We all share the walk to Emmaus trip, personally and
communally. Even though there is darkness and despair, the
Lord walks with us. We must have our eyes opened to see him.
The disciples have nothing over us by their physical
presence to Jesus. Jesus is present with us even now – if we
look for him.
In the hearts of Christians, Jews, and Muslims, there is
the desire to experience God present with us. Where are you,
oh God? How can I see you, hear you, touch you, and find
your present in my heart and mind? Some will beg for
visions, for apparitions. Some will despair of ever
experiencing God and turn sadly away, believing themselves
condemned. Still others will conclude the lack of
experiencing God is proof that God does not exist. Still
others remember tragic histories of families, of
communities, of cultures and believe God has lost interest
in his creation. Where is God? How do we know when we
experience God’s presence? Are there luminous clouds, loud
trumpets heralding his presence? Must we struggle up high
mountains either literally or figuratively to see God’s
face? Why is it that our prayers aren’t answered? Where is
the healing touted in the gospels? Are we disillusioned
because of sinfulness and seduced by the pursuits of what
the world considers important? "The Proud say in their
hearts, there is no god." Yet if we seek him, God is here.
The gift of faith cures our blindness and hardness of heart.
Let us walk with him toward the rising sun with Faith, with
Hope, and shared Charity.
Carol & Dennis Keller
LEAVING THE CHURCH OR STAYING? 3RD SUNDAY EASTER A
For many of us life is a series of changes. Some of these
are forced upon us, others freely chosen. We decide, for
example, to move to a new suburb, look for a new job,
replace our old car with a new model, go on a diet, enroll
the children in a different school, or support a particular
charity. When we make such decisions, we usually do so with
expectations that the changes will work out, and that our
lives will be so much better and happier. But things don't
always work out as well as we hoped. As a proverb puts it:
'Man proposes but God disposes!’ Sometimes, in fact, all our
efforts to change situations bring failure, frustration,
disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment, and we
can’t help thinking and saying, ‘If only this hadn’t
happened’, ‘if only that’.
This is just what happened to those two disciples with
the sad faces whom we meet in the gospel today. To their
credit they have previously responded to the invitation of
Jesus to be his friends and workmates. They have learned a
great deal from him about the meaning of life. They have
shared his work of teaching and healing. They have enjoyed
his company and accomplished a great deal of good. As the
influence of Jesus has spread, they have been filled with
hope for a better world for everyone - a kingdom world of
justice, peace, and joy.
Now, however, this has all come to an abrupt end. For in
these past few days Jesus, their beloved Leader and Teacher,
has been arrested, tried, sentenced, tortured and killed. So
disappointed and so disillusioned are they about Jesus in
fact, that they have even decided to leave the Church, the
community of his followers. This is just what they are doing
when we catch up with them today. Slowly but surely, they
are walking away from it all. Slowly but surely, they are
putting Jerusalem and the other disciples behind them, and
heading off to the village of Emmaus, some seven miles away,
to start a new way of life.
It’s within this situation of unanswered questions,
disappointed hopes and broken dreams that Jesus re-enters
their lives. Not simply as Jesus of Nazareth this time, but
as the Risen Lord, powerful and empowering! As they trudge
along the road, with their eyes cast down, and their
shoulders hunched, they start chatting to each other about
all that has happened. All of a sudden Jesus himself joins
them, but they are so preoccupied with their frustration and
grief that they don’t recognize him at first. Yet they
answer all his questions with the basic facts. They add that
they have even heard a rumor that he is no longer dead but
alive. Yet while they know and recall the basic facts about
him, they have no idea how to join the dots. They need Jesus
to explain to them from the scriptures that the Messiah
would gain victory and glory only through suffering. So
influential and impressive is Jesus' explanation of the
facts that later they say to each other: 'Did not our hearts
burn within us as he talked to us along the road ...?'
By now the sun is setting and they've reached their
destination. Jesus pretends to go on. They have enjoyed his
company so much that they plead with him to stay with them.
He graciously accepts their invitation. There at table their
guest becomes their host. He takes bread, says the blessing
over it, breaks the bread, and gives it to them. Just as he
did at the Last Supper! There and then they recognise him
for who he is.
More than that, they immediately reverse their previous
decision. They turn around and go back to the other
disciples in Jerusalem. They go home, then, to the Church
they have so recently left.
In recent years there have been changes in the Church
throughout the world. While wanting more, some people have
embraced the changes. Some have resented and resisted them.
Others have struggled around the news of priests
misbehaving, and of the cover-up by their superiors. For
this too, some church members have been so disgusted that
they have simply walked out.
What we all need in these times of change,
disappointment, anger and disgust, is stronger faith,
stronger faith in the on-going presence of the Risen Lord to
his Church. We need this stronger faith and the hope and
love that go with it. Especially right now, when we cannot
come together in church to celebrate his presence and
influence, and to support one another with our faith and
But our Risen Lord is with us right here right now, in
ways that match his presence to his disciples on the way to
Emmaus. He is here in our small home gatherings. He is here
as he tells his story in our readings and in how we respond.
And as soon as we can gather again with our fellow
Christians, he will be here among us in our
community-sharing around his table. He will be among us
again, therefore, as both our host and nourishment for the
next stages of our journeys of life. We can hardly wait,
then, to go back to church.
May we welcome him, both then and now, with our minds and
hearts and lives open to his powerful influence! May we
welcome him especially as he comes to us today, comes to us
in the mighty power of his Spirit, who was for us, who is
still, and who will be, his second self!
"Brian Gleeson CP" <email@example.com>