April 26, 2020 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl
Acts of the Apostles 2, 14, 22-33 + Psalm 16 + 1 Peter 1, 17-21 + Luke 24, 13-36
It is a good guess that the people in this Gospel were fleeing the death and danger they had witnessed in Jerusalem. It was a violent and bloodthirsty mob that had roamed the streets and shouted for Barabbas. After filling in this stranger who joins them on the road, Cleopas, who is doing the talking, says something very important: “Him they did not see.” It is a summary line that fairly well describes what has been going on since Jesus came from the desert and was baptized. Through all the time he was among us, even on that short walk from Jerusalem, no one really recognized who he was except a lone centurion at the foot of the cross and a criminal hanging beside him. Everyone else kept hanging on to their hopes that an omnipotent messiah was going to come and restore Israel to its former glory. In their minds, and therefore in their eyes, there was no room for the God Jesus revealed: a God of self-giving and suffering love.
Perhaps their hearts had to be broken before they could give up that narrow idea of God who would punish and condemn those who oppressed God’s people. With the breaking of their hearts, their closed and limited ideas broke open as well allowing a different perception of God’s ways that was more inclusive, more merciful and loving, and more present to them than they had been expecting.
All of us who have suffered broken hearts can learn something from these broken-hearted pilgrims. We can learn to listen. It is a skill in short supply these days, but they did it well. They listened to Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus “opened the Scriptures” to them, which means that he broke open their closed minds trapped by society’s ideas about power and victory. He explained to them God’s choice for an alternative that was more about service than power, more about mercy than revenge, more about other than self, more about love than pleasure, and more about life than death.
Perhaps when dreams are broken and our lives are shattered by tragedies we can become more open to discovering the truth that God’s ways are not ours, that there is, even in suffering, always the hope we that we, disciples of Jesus, have in discovering that the one who suffered for us suffers with us, and those who are one with him in a blood spilled broken body will rise with him. Luke preserved this story for us to tell on this day to assure us that even when we try to flee from suffering or evil someone is with us along the way; and that even though the tomb is empty, our hearts and our lives are never empty when stay with each other and discover that when the scriptures are broken and the bread of Christ’s body is broken, our brokenness shall be healed, and it will never be said that we did not see and recognize him in each other.