Reflection on the Third Sunday of Easter
When I was a child growing up in a household with numerous siblings there was often chaos as you can well imagine. My mother would sometimes register her frustration by declaring that she didn’t know whether she was coming or going. Today’s Gospel invites us to ask ourselves that same question and offers us a GPS to recalculate and readjust both our direction and our energy.
The story is simple. Dreams of a triumphant takeover of the nation by powerful forces have given way to feelings of sadness, grief and failure and the two disconsolate pilgrims are giving up and going back to their old familiar place. They realized that they backed the wrong horse. Caught in the hamster wheel of sharing down spiraling negative thinking, they continue their recitation of the bad news to the clueless stranger who joined them. He listens intently and then, instead of revealing his identity which seems like the logical thing to have done, he goes all the way back to square one by whipping out a power point which locates him in their faith tradition. They listen to him for seven miles! His words fan away the smoldering ashes that stifle their hope. Their desperation and disappointment are melted away by the power of his words and the warmth of his companionship.
In this story, hospitality is the doorway to grace. With deep respect for their freedom to choose, the stranger gave them the impression that he was going farther. They invited him to stay with them. In the sharing of the meal, crumbs of memory sparked into recognition and they knew him in the simple ritual of the taking, blessing, breaking and sharing of bread. They moved from isolation to community and from despair to the celebration of Easter. It is the outcome which is hoped for at every Eucharistic celebration. It is also the stage on which our communal gatherings nourish and sustain our unshakable reliance on God and our human reliance on one another.
In this story Luke provides the key bridge to our understanding of divine presence as seeming absence. Resurrection is not resuscitation. When Jesus vanished, his presence remained and remains. Apparently, enthusiasm, joy and the energy to persevere in the effort to carry the message are the hallmarks of having recognized the risen Jesus — not visual and intellectual proof.
We are likewise constantly invited and empowered to come back together again and again, and to strive to create a climate of hospitality where actions follow words and welcoming is more important than self-protection — where there is space for the marginalized and the rejected and where the fearful may enter and find themselves at home. We. too, struggle to continue to hope and believe that our efforts can make a difference in a world where humongous problems proliferate daily and cause pain and suffering for millions of innocent people. And we also know all too well that the hour is growing late.
I would like to close with a comment from Teilhard on the words, “Stay with us Lord for it is evening and the day is far spent.” Teilhard said, “Assimilate and utilize the shadows of later life: enfeeblement, loneliness and the sense that no further horizons lie ahead … Discover from the Christ-Omega who is the culmination of spiritualization how to remain young, enthusiastic and full of enterprise. May we be strengthened to live under the exclusive dominance of a single passion — to help forward the synthesis of Christ and the universe.”
When I was looking for a metaphor to anchor the reality of Easter in my mind I thought of the commercial in which a big dog is looking out the window and joyfully announces that “the peanut butter box is here!” His know-it-all companion sets him straight about the box and he himself knows there is no peanut butter in the box. No matter. His joy is unstifled. So, my question is, can we celebrate Easter with as much joy as he had when he announced that “the peanut box is here!”