This is a reflection I gave at mass in my Jesuit Community the Wednesday of Easter, April 7th 2010:
First Reading: Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John at the Temple:“I have neither silver nor gold,but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”
Gospel: Luke 24:13-35, The Road to Emmaus : “Were not our hearts burning within us…”
How do we be authentic followers of Jesus in the most violent Empire in the world?
This was a question posed to me a couple of weeks ago by a Catholic Worker in Washington D.C. and I believe was the very question that the early Christians were asking as they walked the road to Emmaus. What had really changed since the death and resurrection? The totalitarian regime was still in power with the religious establishment in collusion. The powers of Empire, the magnification of personal sins resonated back down upon them in force that worked to divide and isolate them. It was a power that held them fearful and oppressed. They were worthless, powerlessness, easily cast aside and crucified like their teacher. They could change nothing.
Today these powers of Empire take many different forms, but lead to the same structural sins that we can participate in. The economic and market forces are always reminding us of our inadequacy. The pervasive individualism works to isolate us and tell us that we are alone in our struggles. It brings that deep sense of loneliness and need always to assert ourselves, figure ourselves out. It is a sense of powerlessness that I, you, our community, really have no control over anything, we are consumers in this world of multinationals. We can feel as powerless as the first century Jews, unable to change anything.
How do we follow Jesus in such a world?
This story today of the journey is an answer of the early Christians give us. It is the pattern of the resurrection, of new life, and a new kind of power.
It all starts in sharing the pain. The two disciples began talking, arguing, debating over what everything meant. Other translations say they were having a lively exchange. What were they doing? I think they were opening up to one another. They were sharing their pain and frustration, their deep longing and hopes that did not come true.
They were sharing their burdens and joys, their communal sins and communal graces.
If they were here in this room they might be talking about their frustration with students, the dryness they find in classes, their hopes for the future, their struggles to live faithfully.
What did they find in this sharing, in this opening up to one another? Christ walked with him. The resurrected Christ listened to it all, entered into their lives, their joys and fears, the struggle and journey. He did not just leave it at a simple sharing, but transformed it.
He showed them that God is in it all. They and we are not alone. God is the in the struggle of life and has transformed it. They are not alone was the message as he opened scripture to them. There is a whole book here of God walking with her people, sharing in their journey, their struggle.
And what did they find in this sharing and insight? They found in their community that broke bread a new energy and life, their hearts were set on fire. It made them run back to Jerusalem to share this all with their brother and sisters, their community.
Is this not really what the resurrection was about? Did it not always create community that shared with one another, found God in their common journey? A community that helps each other carry the burdens of communal sin and grace. When we share and listen to one another, encourage and love one another, challenge and laugh, don't we find new life, find a power to face the world.
It is the same power Peter and John had in our first reading. They did not have the power of the Empire, which is money, affluence, and domination. What they did have was Jesus Christ, and a community of faith centered on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Peter did not just snap his fingers to heal the man, but symbolized community by reaching down, grabbing the man’s hand, helping him up and welcoming into the community where the man found healing and wholeness.
The invitation then today for us, as we continue to the journey, is to first of all be thankful for our own Christian community, our own community that comes together today to break bread, to share our lives, to share our mission as companions of Jesus. Let us pray that in these last few weeks of busyness and stress that we don't fall away from each other and give into the forces around us of isolation, individualism, and superficiality. Let us share with one another, encourage and love one another. Let us help one another find Christ in all we do and in that find the energy and life to continue building and welcoming others into our Christian community that labors with Christ to dismantle the structures of sin and replace them with the beauty of community, the beauty of the Kingdom of God.