By Rachel Lyons
Sunday, April 30, 2017
I am not an expert on the ‘Road to Emmaus’ story, though perhaps I should be. I have lived in Emmaus House, a Catholic Worker community in North Lawndale, for the past year and a half, so you might be thinking that I should know this Gospel story forwards and backwards. But I still learn some new insight each time I let it sink into my experience. This time around, I am feeling a bit surprised, even annoyed, by Jesus’ words in the story. In the Gospel story today, two people who witnessed Jesus’ death and heard stories of a now empty tomb are walking, talking, and grieving on the road. Out of the blue, Jesus comes up to walk with them. He acts so innocently and seems not to know what they are talking about or what has occurred over the past three days. And then, once the travelers explain the terrible and confusing reality of it all, how does Jesus respond? “He said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are!'”
Wait, what? Did you just call them foolish in the midst of their struggle? I would be pretty surprised and annoyed if someone responded to my confusion and hurt with, “Nah, you’re being foolish. Let me tell you how it is.” I’m impressed that the two travelers let Jesus stick around and didn’t just walk quickly to get in front of him and move along to their destination. Instead they paused. They listened to Jesus as he interpreted the Scriptures. They kept walking with him. They were open to a stranger’s perspective. They didn’t run away or make their rebuttal so loud that Jesus’ voice was drowned out. And this is what resonates with me when I think about times I have chosen to stick with uncomfortable feelings and not walk (or run) away from a different perspective. I know distinct times when my worldview shifted for the better because I stopped talking and didn’t let my feelings take up all the space or airtime. Don’t we learn so much when we accept ourselves as fools on the road, as people with much to learn? Especially when we listen to our fellow travelers who are pushed to the margins, who are experiencing oppression, who can really tell us how it is in a whole new light?
This is truly the idea of encounter – our focus for the Easter season. Finding Christ in every encounter takes patient accompaniment, a listening ear, and a deep humility. Encounter takes an open heart and a person who can withstand being called a fool. One way I have experienced this deep mystery of encounter is the JustFaith program we run here at OSP. I’ve been blessed to accompany different small groups over the past three years who have journeyed through the JustFaith process of investigating current justice issues and how we can respond to them as people of faith. In each small group, we worked to encounter Christ in each other and in the people we met through the program’s immersion experiences. We visited agencies and non-profits during the program to really see how people were addressing poverty, racism, violence, and disparities in Chicago and rebuilding places of hope, love, accountability, and compassion. Throughout the months of JustFaith, encounters led to transformation within ourselves and then to the systems and institutions around us. Christ was always there, even when we could not see him. JustFaith is not a place for people who have all the answers, who read all the right news articles, who can systematically analyze all the factors of oppression. JustFaith is a space for people, maybe even fools, on the road. For people walking in doubt with a dozens of questions. For people who wonder if anyone else out there is aching for some kind of sacred space to learn, grow, and take action. For people whose hearts are burning for a better tomorrow, for peace in our streets, for God’s kin-dom come.
I am excited for this Easter season of encounter – for the many ways we will find Christ and the many ways Christ will find us. What will you do on this Easter road? What will you do when someone calls you a fool? Will you stick with it? If you are so called, I invite you to consider the JustFaith experience this year. We’ll have a table on Sunday where you can stop by for more info, or you can contact me with any questions. Blessings on the Easter road ahead.
Rachel Lyons is the Organizer for our Mission of Social Justice. You can reach her to find out more about the JustFaith program (starting in Sept. 2017) and our many Justice Initiatives – email@example.com.