Sunday, April 15th
By Bernadette Gibson
WITNESS AND RECOMMIT OURSELVES TO LOVE
This week’s Gospel is about witnessing and recommitting ourselves to Love. It’s important for us to remember that the last story Luke shared with us is when Jesus was joining the two downcast disciples on their walk from Jerusalem, seven miles to the little village of Emmaus. They didn’t realize it was Jesus at first. They were pouring out their hearts at how all their hopes had been dashed when Jesus, whom they had hoped to be the one who would redeem Israel, had been crucified. He had been delivered up by the very chief priests and scribes of the people, the most respected religious leaders, and that conversation is carried on. The other thing that really strikes me about this story is that the meal in which they finally recognize Jesus is not shared in some sacred space like a temple or synagogue, and neither is it a specifically religious meal. It is not a Seder, or even a Sabbath meal. It is a traveler’s meal, taken together in borrowed quarters at the end of a long walk. It is, if you will, a meal at a highway diner or a picnic at a rest stop, and nothing more than that. And yet it becomes a sanctified meal and a moment of deep encounter with the living Christ.
It’s a remarkable scene in a remarkable chapter. First there were the women, going to the tomb and not finding Jesus there. Mary, encounters the living Christ on her journey of sorrow. Then there were two disconsolate disciples, winding their way back to the little village of Emmaus, and suddenly He’s there with them but hidden from their eyes, teaching them the Scriptures, building the foundation of their hope up again from the shambles and then revealing Himself to them in the breaking of the bread; and suddenly the joy was there again and the hope returned and the life came to pass and they ran back to speak to the disciples and now they’re telling the disciples about that amazing journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. And while the words are in their mouths describing their interactions with Jesus, Jesus appears there and He speaks to the disciples. And the very first word out of His mouth to His disciples is PEACE, Jesus says “May the favor of My Father that gives total wellbeing be upon you.” Remember, collectively, his disciples have denied Him, abandoned Him, and disbelieved in Jesus’s promises. And yet the first words out of Jesus’s mouth are reassurance, peace, and loving companionship.
And so today’s Gospel contains an important message for all of us – especially for those still searching for Jesus, or for those who feel like we have lost Jesus. There are some walks that are longer than others – not because of the miles or even because of the landscape, but because of the burdens. I suspect the walk to Emmaus was one of the latter type. The walk would have been difficult – because it was the walk of hopes in shambles. It was the walk through the valley of disillusionment. It was also a walk burdened with perhaps accusation and personal shame. I have thought, meditated in some quiet moments this week, sort of searching my own heart about times when I felt like I was lost to Jesus, or at least felt Jesus felt lost to me. I am reminded how when I allowed the Spirit of God to lead me, my mind has been flooded with peace and the knowledge that our God will always stand with me.
The church is a complex thing, and life in ministry work gets infinitely complex when we accompany those with losses and tragedies in our community. Sometimes, it becomes so complex that we lose sight of the bottom line, the basic. I really think that the basic ingredient or element of our Christian life is to love and recognize Jesus’s presence before us in our lives, especially when we are afraid, lost, or broken.
Every Easter, I take the time to re-commission myself and to think about my participation in our mission. When I think of today’s Gospel, I believe that Jesus’s presence in the Gospel today was one of mandating his disciples. I imagine that Jesus was reminding His disciples of the mission. He was saying, “That’s what you are. You are My witnesses.” Jesus also calls us to be a witness, to view ourselves as one who was witness to the forgiveness that only comes through Jesus. Jesus reminds us to find His deep peace. Jesus once again teaches us the Scriptures patiently and opens our eyes to understanding. We stand as ambassadors of the exquisite love that was first shared with us. So come, Lord Jesus, in the dawning of each day, and make yourself known to us, wherever we find ourselves breaking bread. Send your Spirit upon us so that, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and your disciples praying for Your return to them, our hearts may burn within us as we seek You again in our Lives.
Bernadette Gibson is Director of Pastoral Care at Old Saint Patrick’s Church.