Where do you look?

Our gospel on this 3rd Sunday of Easter is St. Luke’s telling of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It is a story about a journey of faith even as it is a journey to faith. The thing about journeys is that you often do not realize that you are on one, or if you do, may not recognize that the nature of the journey has changed. The two disciples had journeyed to Jerusalem with one set of hopes and expectations. They were following Jesus, were in Jerusalem for the events of Holy Week, and saw one journey seemingly end at Golgotha.  Continue reading

Emmaus: at table

At The Table With Jesus The disciples are struck by what Jesus has said and ask him to stay with them even has he appears to be traveling on. Alan Culpepper (479) offers an interesting insight into the simple passage (v.28):

Jesus’ first action is probably significant both thematically and theologically. He “walked ahead as if he were going on.” On the surface it is a gesture of social deference and polish. It implies that Jesus was not really going further but that he would not impose on the disciples to offer him hospitality. In Near Eastern customs, the guest was obligated to turn down such an invita­tion until it was vigorously repeated (see Gen 19:2-3). Theologically, Jesus’ action demonstrates that he never forces himself upon others. Faith must always be a spontaneous, voluntary response to God’s grace. Thematically, the action is sugges­tive, because all the way through the Gospel Jesus has been going further. When the people at Naz­areth rejected him, Jesus “passed through the midst of them and went on his way” (4:30). When the crowds wanted to prevent Jesus from leaving them, he responded, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also” (4:43). He preached in synagogues and with­drew to desert places to pray (4:44; 5:16). In Galilee he was constantly on the move, and from Luke 9:51 until 19:44 he is on the way to Jerusalem. The Lukan Jesus, therefore, was always going further, and in the book of Acts the gospel of Jesus will spread “to the ends of the earth.” Continue reading

On the way: the Word

he_qi_road_to_emmausLuke sets the scene with markers of time (that very day), place (on the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus) and situation – two disciples who earlier had been with the disciples, heard the women’s testimony and apparently discounted their testimony has idle wistfulness. The community of believers has been fractured.

Unable to see. Elsewhere in the Gospel according to Luke “eyes” and “sight” have been correlated with comprehension, faith and salvation (cf. 1:78-79; 2:30; 6:39-42; 10:23; 11:34; 18:35-42; 10:42). For most the gospel referred to as the “Journey to Jerusalem” (9:51 – 18:14) the disciples have witnesses Jesus’ teaching, mighty deeds, and revelation of his heavenly Father. But in the earliest hours of the new world order after the Resurrection, the two disciples do not recognize Jesus. Their eyes are “prevented” from seeing, an expression for spiritual blindness. It ironic that the two travelers consider themselves the truly knowledgeable ones who are shocked that this fellow traveler has no idea of the very public events of the last three days. While they understand the details of the events from a human perspective, they are truly unaware of those event’s meaning. Continue reading

On the way: context

he_qi_road_to_emmausLuke 24:13-35  13 Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, 14 and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. 15 And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, 16 but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. 21 But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. 22 Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning 23 and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. 24 Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” Continue reading

Getting to Sydney

Let’s say that San Francisco is the beginning of the voyage. Sydney, Australia is the destination. At the same moment a tramp steamer, a luxury liner, a submarine, a sailboat, a Lamborghini, a single-engine Cessna, and a Boeing 747 airliner begin the journey. All will try to journey to the same destination. Every journey will be encounter different things along the way: storms, rogue waves, turbulence, trade winds, potholes, headwinds, end-of-the-road, and more. For a time, we might be lost, adrift, or stuck in one place. Every tale of the journey will be different. The lessons learned along the way unique. Not all will make it to Sydney.  We hope that most will Continue reading

Deus meus et omnia

At the beginning of Lent I wrote to you regarding a way to think about Lenten observances – not simply as penitential – “I am giving up….” but as more. I wrote:

“Lent isn’t about denial. It is about transformation. It is the season in which we prepare to encounter the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection by endeavoring to become more Christ-like ourselves. Transformation is about letting ourselves be filled with God’s presence so that we can be shaped by God’s grace. But we have to make room for God’s grace. We have to empty ourselves to make room for God – and that may mean leaving aside your favorite TV shows, chocolate, or whatever else takes up time, space, and energy in your life. And so, we give up things/habits as a way of beginning the transformation.” Continue reading

Coming to believe: life

doubting-Thomas-DuccioThe Ninth Beatitude. In response, Jesus told Thomas, Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Thomas came to believe because he saw the risen Lord, but Jesus did not praise Thomas’ pathway to faith; rather, he pronounced a blessing upon those who have not seen the risen Jesus yet have believed in him nevertheless. These are those who hear or read the witness to Jesus borne by the disciples and confirmed by the Spirit (15:26–27). This is the second pronunciation of blessing by Jesus in the form of a beatitude in the Fourth Gospel (cf. 13:17: “If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.”) Continue reading

Coming to believe: trusting

doubting-Thomas-Duccio“…do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  Continue reading

Coming to believe: the Spirit given

doubting-Thomas-Duccio“Receive the holy Spirit” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

The sacred writer had already introduced the giving of the Holy Spirit in John 7 in a scene during the Feast of Tabernacles in which the Spirit is promised at a future time when Jesus was glorified. In the Fourth Gospel it is at the crucifixion that Jesus is glorified in that his willing obedience manifests the nature of God, which is love. It is there on the cross that Jesus deliver the Spirit into the world (19:30), symbolized immediately afterward by the flow of the sacramental symbols of blood and water. Continue reading

Coming to believe: an excursus

doubting-Thomas-DuccioSo I send you… an excursus. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

How one already understands and practices their faith forms parts of lens with which one understands these three simple verses. When I quiz Catholics about who is meant with the plural “you” in these verses, the  most common answer is “the apostles.” Behind the answer lies the Catholic church ecclesiology (understanding of what it means to be church) and the sacramental understanding of confession/reconciliation. Those in the Protestant and Reformed churches would not agree and (in general) understand the “you” to be all disciples. Continue reading