Today we hear about the journey of two disciples to Emmaus. We can relate to the this l story very much by now. In a way the disciples of Jesus were on lockdown after jesus's crucifixion. The locked the doors of the upperroom out of fears for the Jewish authorities. Most of them stayed behind these closed doors. They were afraid!
Just like them we are on locked up most of the time because of Covid 19. Sometimes we have to go out for a quick errand or maybe travel to another town. The same with the two disciples we hear about today. They were maybe tired of being locked up and decided to travel to Emmaus, a town 7 miles from Jerusalem. Let's say from Fulton to Kingdom City. The Emmaus story teaches us what an impact an encounter with the living Christ can mean for our lives. In General it means also the impact that the encounter with a stranger can have on our lives, if we are willing to open ourselves up. A stranger or outsider can shine a different light on our seemingly hopeless situation. In the case of the Emmaus disciples it has a double impact. Their isolation was broken and there is a new light shining even in the midst of darkness. It seems that a stranger comes and walk with Cleopas and the other disciples. They did not recognize him. Maybe because they never met Jesus in person, maybe because it was prevented by God in order to let them understand the lesson.
He asks a to the question stupid question. As my mom would say when I was a
kid : “your asking about the known way". But he is a careful listener as well. They are astonished and ask if he does no about the events in Jerusalem. I would be the same if someone would walk with us and ask us what is bothering us. Things that are bothering us and our community. Which pandemic are you talking about? Well everyone knows about the pandemic. So if someone would inquire us about it we would be surprised wouldn't we? The disciples are even getting some frustrated. They though Jesus was the one that would bring an end to the injustice in the world. Does God even care about us? We though he did but he must not. That is completely logically reaction when you are in grief. We might also think that God abandoned us in this crisis. But don't worry God is not upset by our fears and doubt.
In these moments Jesus is there to encourage us and comfort us. When we are grieving we cannot think logically or clearly. In a way we have some kind of tunnel vision. We cannot see “the light at the end of the tunnel”, symbolically spoken. Our hopes and dreams are shattered and gone. Or maybe we ignore our pain and flee to other things to ease our pain. Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to get through to us. Sometimes we are in shock and need someone that offers us a fresh perspective.
Jesus comes to Cleopas and the other disciple to turn their perspectives again to Gods promises. And he does so by revealing the scriptures to them. And still they did not know who this man was!
Often Jesus appears in our lives and we don’t notice his presence either. The encounter with the Lord will always reveal Gods promises to us, whether we get it or we don’t
The Emmaus story is story that comforts and encourages us as well. The message that God showed his saving power throughout history and he will show it again, if we trust in him.He kept his people safe from the famines and plagues in Egypt, He parte the Red Sea and brought the Israelites to the promised land, He raised Jesus from the dead. We have a magnificent God and do we still think this Corona crisis is too much for that mighty God to overcome? Nothing is too much for Him to overcome! He will show his power even in the light of suffering, pain and death. He will raise our hopes and dreams and lets his light shine in the midst of darkness…if we only trust in Him! We should trust in Him only and not "human princes" like the psalms says.
The road to Emmaus symbolizes our way through life. And it is not always an easy road, sometimes there are bumps in the road. Jesus, as the good counselor he is, he asks the right questions and than offers a new perspective upon our troubles. Jesus will lead us if we stay close to him and are willing to listen to his guidance. In the first reading we hear exactly how to do that. We need to return to the Lord with all our heart. We need to repent, which means admit that we were wrong. Admit that we cannot do it all by ourselves. Then we will be “baptized in Christ”, as St. Paul tells us. That means that we Let Christ himself teach us through his word and through his presence. He might come as a stranger to reveal the scriptures to us but we have to be submerged within his word.
Then we will be forgiven of our shortcomings and doubts. This means that a new start is offered and all the old is past. Then we will receive the Holy Spirit. This means that Christ walks with us on our path through life. We will recognize him when he breaks the bread. We can feel his presence and we hear him talking to us. All we need to do is listen to his voice and direct our steps through life. And if we fail….we can the four steps over again. Just remember the his disciples were not perfect. They were fearful and weak at times, just like us but they were persistent in following Christ. They are a great example for us. So let us go into the world and proclaim the Gospel of Love and Peace to all creation, even when we are weak. And we will also encounter the Risen Lord and recognize him in the breaking of the bread. Amen.
Today we are very fitting scripture lessons for the dark times we are in as a result of the Covid 19 crisis. In the first reading we hear about Noah who was locked up in the Ark with his family and the animals, for 40 days and 40 nights. He could go nowhere, surrounded by the waters of chaos. This is of course a reference to the waters of chaos before creation. But God put order in the chaos and so he will do again for Noah. And so He will do again always.
Just imagine, you are locked in a house for a certain amount of time. You decided you need to go out of the house to get fresh air or something like that. Then they unthinkable happens to break through your sadness and isolation. That very thing happens to the Apostle Thomas in today’s Gospel. I am sure by now we all can imagine how he must have felt locked up in the house. But the sad thing for him was that just as he was out Jesus appeared to the other disciples. So even when we are locked in marvelous things can happen. And of course, Thomas didn’t believe them. Yeah, yeah…nothing happens for days and now I am out suddenly something happens? How do you know it was the Lord? Maybe it is was an angel of one of the prophets? Did you say the wounds in his hands, feet’s and side? You didn’t huh? So, it wasn’t him. I will not believe until is see these very things…buddies. Is Thomas stubborn that he doesn’t believe at once? Is he stubborn that he leaves the house when it is dangerous? Thomas refused to be locked down by the Jewish authorities. Thomas is a man of reason who dares to question. That is not a bad quality. Because why should you believe? Because someone else tells you to? Or should you believe out of your own experience? In my opinion it should be the last option.
We should believe because we ourselves encountered the Risen Lord and experienced his closeness. So, when the disciples are all together Jesus appears again and then Thomas also believes because he experiences. There is something in that togetherness of all disciples. As it says it the second reading: “Peter stands with the 11”. As a Church, as Clergy we should stand together in trying times. And I am sorry…but that is not my experience always. Many times, it is more standing alone than with each other. Many times, we go our own ways and find our own things much more important than standing with each other. But we can always turn back and be united as the disciples were. We are Easter People and we should believe, live and love like Easter people.
The apostle Thomas, one of Jesus’s inner circle, had a different path to come to believe in the resurrection than the other. So what? Everyone has his own because in coming to faith! Thomas wanted evidence before he could believe that the risen Jesus had appeared to his fellow apostles. His story offers some comfort to us when we have questions or are in doubt. With the memory of our Lord’s crucifixion fresh in their hearts, the nervous disciples had locked the doors of their meeting room. Many times, we locked the doors as well. The doors of our houses, the door of our hearts, the door of our churches. The disciples had locked themselves for fear of Jewish reprisals. They were afraid that what was done to Jesus could be done to them. But something was about to happen that would be a turning point, for them and for us. Jesus appears and breaths and fills them with the Holy Spirit. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” In the power of the Spirit they left their self-imposed prison, to go out and spread the message of Jesus. And we should do the same. We should leave our self or by others-imposed prison and be the people of Easter. That there is life after death, that there is light after darkness.
Are we sometimes like those disciples, paralyzed by fear which makes us inactive and unwilling to bring good news? Our confidence is shaken by the darkness that surrounds us. Maybe we are tempted to abandon our Easter faith, unable to see the light on the end of the tunnel? Today’s gospel offers a solution. The Lord himself comes to us, whether in lockdown or out for a moment, and will revive our courage. No locked doors, nor locked hearts, not the Corona virus can keep him out. At first, Thomas refused to believe what the others had seen. He demanded definite proof. Jesus gave him the proof he needed. “Put your finger here,” he said, “and feel my wounds.” God does not get upset with us when we are doubtful or fearful. He can handle it. God, Jesus forgives our fears and doubts and offers us a new start. In tradition Thomas is often called doubting Thomas because of his initial doubt. But he was a man of deep faith. The man that eventually gave the greatest proclamation in the New Testament: “My Lord and my God.
Here at the table of the Lord, we meet with the risen Christ, just as St Thomas did. We give him our loyalty. We lay our hands in his wounds, which brings an end to our doubts and fears during darkness. In praying together, we help each other’s faith and strengthen our Christian community. It was because the Early Church met prayer and seemed a joyful community, that so many others came to believe. So today let us go forward as the Easter people and proclaim with St. Thomas: “My Lord and My God”! Let us go forward from darkness to the light that God has prepared for those that love him! Amen.
I don’t know what about you but for me this is one of the weirdest Easter celebrations I ever experienced in my life with everyone on lock down, social distancing, restaurants close and children who cannot visit their grandparents. And even more as a clergy with most of all Churches that are closes and the Easter celebrations have a different character. Yes, we cannot gather in churches but remember that the first Christians didn’t either. They gathered in houses because public worship was not allowed for them.
In the light of all of that you might get depressed but actually all of this is what Easter is all about. Just remember the disciples of Jesus were on lockdown. Most of them hid themselves behind closed doors our of “fear for the Jews”. They were locked in that upper room where they had the Last Supper and where Jesus later would appear to them. They were on lockdown, fearful and hid themselves. There were a few exceptions like the women and Thomas. Where was Thomas: “was he getting groceries at a locked down marketplace” and then quickly get behind closed doors again?
We are also hiding behind closes doors out of fear for that invisible enemy: Covid 19 or the Corona virus. But we know the light for the disciples was about to break through. Just back in the days when God saved his people out of the darkness of slavery to freedom, God was about to do his miracle again. He was about to break the chains of death and evil into glorious new life for all of us. Nothing is too big for God to conquer. So let us not be fearful but courageous in the light of everything that is happening. For we can be confident that He will bring an end to this crisis we are in as well. “What the devil meant for evil, God will use for good”. We only have to put our confidence and faith in God. We just need to trust him...and not in "human princes from whom comes no salvation", as the Bible tells us.
When we look at the Easter story there is so many things that are magnificent about. One of the magnificent things is that it shows the courage and strength of the women. It are not the men who act macho and strong that shows real courage….it are the women. Mary Magdalene finds the empty tomb and runs to the apostles to tell them her astonishing news. It is only in St John’s Gospel we hear that the tomb was empty. But the women were not giving any guidance about the meaning of that all. When Peter and the beloved disciple went to the grave the meaning became clear: Jesus has been risen from the dead! The Easter message is truly great news and is timeless. More than ever we need to hear it now as we walk in dark times. We can identify with the story and the persons in the Gospel. We are called just like Mary Magdalene to, share with others, the news of the resurrection? And with Peter and John we find out how Jesus can enlighten our lives.
When we dig deeper we experience the Easter mystery and the wonder that the women and the disciples must have experienced. It is the timeless message that God is “the God of the living and not from the death”. It is the message that God does not forget or forsake us. The darkest hour is just before dawn, the time that the women went to the grave. And they were in for the biggest surprise of their life. They were talking among themselves who would roll away the stone from the grave. But no worries God took care of that already. On Easter morning, the stone was rolled away. God can again roll away the stony from the grave. From the grave of darkness in our hearts, in our lives, in our society. He can take away the darkness of “Covid 19” if we just put our trust above everything. When we turn the grave just before sunrise we find the tomb empty and the angels sitting inside with a message for us as well: “He is not here, He is Risen as he has said”. In the spirit of the Risen Lord I wish you all a Happy Easter! Amen!
The last words that Jesus spoke on the cross, according to St. John, were: “It is finished". Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. This was the crucial moment that links us all with the divine mercy of God. “In the beginning was the Word.” Then at the end of his earthly life, the Risen Lord breathed on his followers, to share his own Spirit with them. The fourth Gospel links this gift of the Holy Spirit with the whole creative process as told in the Book of Genesis. “In the beginning God created heaven and earth” and “He blew into his nostrils the breath of life”. We tremble when we hear those dying words of Jesus “It is finished!” Something wonderful was accomplished, completed which would be forever on the memory of his followers. His life ended on a rocky hill outside Jerusalem, with a final act of self-surrender to the Father, on our behalf. It was a unique moment whose fruits go on forever.
The moment of his death is sacred in the hearts of all who trust in him. The self-giving spirit of Jesus as he left this world is poured out and handed on to us. It is through his sacrifice on our behalf that all is accomplished. His cross offers us the grace and mercy of God, whatever our state may be. Now we have to adopt the saving power of the cross into our lifestyle. The Lord calls us in turn to bring his love and compassion to bear in our lives. He wants us to reach out to others as he did and bring them into the warmth of God’s grace and mercy. Calvary sets in consoling relief the experience of all who suffer, whether that of physical pain, emotional trauma or significant loss in the prospect of death. The human Jesus, struggling to come to terms with the reality of this life, echoes every human experience of suffering and of loss. It reflects the complexity and confusion of emotions in moments of pain, loss and death.
This Friday, in homes and in hospitals all over the world, those who experience pain and desolation in whatever form will find some kind of comfort in this story. All those who like Mary stand at the foot of the cross, will sense something of the complexity of emotions that were present on Calvary: the confusion, the disillusion, desolation and anger. How many indeed this Friday will echo the great lamentation of Jesus as he died on the cross: My God, why have you forsaken on me?" All who are suffering in whatever form this Good Friday, will find an echo of their pain in the sufferings of Jesus. The contradiction of the cross is that what it represents, the sufferings of Christ, continues to save and to heal and to comfort.
Contemplating Jesus on the cross brings comfort and strength to those who need it. And it reminds us that it is through his suffering that everyone and everything is redeemed, that the power and the presence and promise of God are now accessible to us in our suffering and in our need. Contemplating Jesus on the Cross reminds us that in our present frail and redeemed bodies we carry the saving power of God. We kiss the cross on Good Friday, not for God’s sake but for our own. Amen.
It is good to reflect on the words of Jesus when he said, “Do this in memory of me!” What did he mean by the symbolism of the broken bread and the shared wine? We need to get deeper than the surface to understand. The Last Supper was celebrated in the context of the Jewish Passover meal. This is what we heard in the first reading from the book of Exodus. The people of God were freed from the slavery in Egypt. When we reflect on it deeper it opens up for us the idea that God enters our lives to save us and set us free from whatever oppresses us.
When we are "opened" for Gods reality, we are prepared for the good news that the saving work of God is done in and by Jesus Christ. This was his supreme “hour ” of his saving work on our behalf. He was prepared to leave this world to return to God the Father. His passion and resurrection is the new EXODUS, the new covenant between God and humanity. It sets us free from slavery to all things that keeps us from God. Through his self-giving, Jesus won the power to draw us to him and to follow his way of love. In the Last Supper with his disciples he anticipated on his sacrifice and gave himself under the signs of bread and wine. Whenever we celebrate Eucharist together we are united in the Spirit with Jesus. By it we share in the New convenant and become the person God wants us to be.
Like St Peter, we have to let Jesus wash our feet. We need to follow his example an accept his challenge to the servant of all. His example shows us how to live. He tells us “you too ought to wash one another’s feet.” The Eucharist is starting point from which he sends us out to wash the feet of others, at least in a symbolical. Sincere Eucharistic spirituality leads to service of others. We must follow his example both at the altar of the Eucharist and at the altar of life. There is more to the washing of the feet than an example of service. It goes to the heart of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. It offers us a clear vision of how we should behave, after sharing in the gift of the Eucharist. St John’s understanding of the Last Supper, wants to show us that washing his disciples feet was a part of what he meant by doing this in memory of me. Amen.
Today we hear about the glorious entry of Jesus in Jerusalem. We hear the people shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David". Most likely the same people that on the end of Holy Week shout: "crucify him", because he was not the King they wanted him to be. And we are sometimes the same. In this account of the Lord’s Passion we see vivid character which we can easily identify with. It can also provide us with material for reflection and prayer. We can reflect on the good news that the story has for us. First Jesus is revealed as Messiah and Son of God. He comes forth not as powerful but as the suffering Messiah. but by being prepared to suffer even death to show how our God loves us. Does the Passion story offer you a glimpse of how God loves you? Second Jesus gives an example of patient, endurance and faithfulness in suffering. That is something we all have to endure. When we suffer we have to remember that we have a God who knows our pain Characters in the Passion story
A lot of people die for a cause, Jesus was certainly not the first and neither the last. He was also not the last innocent man condemned to dead. Even on Calvary He was not the only one. There are a lot of Martyrs through history. In our days we recall the dead of Oscar Romero and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The questions I what makes the Lord passion different from these other martyrs? One reason is that the Gospel tells the story in such a way that we can feel involved. From most stories we don’t have as much details as we have from the Passion of the Lord.
The Passion brought out the weakness of his friends. First Judas, than Peter and eventually the rest of his disciples except a few that stayed faithful. Peter that proclaimed he would never forsake the Lord, who was expected to be steady as a rock? Only a few hours before, he had boasted, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” But when Peter was cornered. “He began to curse and to swear that he knew not the man.” We are told that when Jesus turned and looked at him, Peter “went out and wept bitterly.” These were his friends, the ones who loved him and shared his company during the years of his ministry. In the crisis of his trial, not one of them stood by him. How does the Passion of Jesus relate to us? Mysteriously, his cross is the means of our salvation. But it is also the story of our lives, of our failures and our recovery. We also mirror the disciples who fled to avoid involvement. Perhaps we have something of the rigid spirit of Caiaphas and the priests, who were keen to reform others but not themselves. And let’s face it, there’s also a hint of Judas in us all. There are times and situations when Jesus could say to us as to him, “Friend, what are you doing here?” And of course we all had situations where we felt abandoned by those closest to us.
We can also identify with the “Good Thief”, who was crucified alongside Jesus, who humbly asked for a final blessing or join the whom said “Truly this man was God’s Son!” Or we can join in prayer with the faithful ones who stood beneath the cross of Jesus “… his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, and the disciple whom Jesus loved. This is the most solemn week of the liturgical year. At one time through history it was the ‘Great Week‘ but nowadays we call it Holy Week. In it we witness the total self-giving of Jesus. This week we will try to follow Jesus every step of the way, beginning with his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. There he was welcomed, applauded and acclaimed by a crowd of admirers. On Thursday we will join him at table, to receive his gift of himself in the Eucharist. After dining with him we will go to the Garden of Olives. Then we follow him in his struggle with suffering and death. We will see him struggling with fear and anxiety about the cruel death that awaits him. On Good Friday we will be standing in spirit beside the faithful ones at the foot of the cross. We see him handing his spirit back to the Father who sent him.
On Saturday we will be quiet and silent around his tomb, as we remember the injustice and cruelty of humanity. Then, late on Saturday, we will move from the darkness of our Passion journey to the light of Easter. There we will join the procession of the great Paschal Candle, representing the risen Christ. The pain of our compassion with Jesus to Calvary will give way to the hope and joy of Easter. Jesus Christ is not dead and gone. No, he is risen, strong and powerful, alive in himself, and alive in us. He is with us, even in this current health crisis, reassuring us that after the suffering of Good Friday there will be the bright light of Easter. Then the stone will be rolled away and we hear those words of comfort: “the Lord is Risen as he has said”. Amen