6 April 2008 3rd Sunday of Easter
Luke 24, 13-35 Movement and Growing in Faith
The Christian vocation is to grow towards becoming like Christ. On God’s account, we must advance and move forward. St. Paul said, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philemon 3, 13-14). The notion of movement is seen in many characters in Scripture: one is the story of the disciples on their way to Emmaus. It is a growing movement from confusion to enlightenment, from sadness to joy, from failure to hope.
First, the two disciples were mourning. They were frustrated and downtrodden about the death of Jesus to whom they pinned their hopes for the emancipation of Israel. They thought everything was a failure, and so they decided to return to their place of origin. It was along the first part of their journey that Jesus joined them, but they were not able to recognize him.
We can be blinded by our tears. When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene in the tomb, Mary in her tears thought that He was the gardener. When our projects and exams fail, or when someone dear to us bid us farewell, our tendency is to wallow in our disappointment and heartbreak. Whatever assuring words our parents and friends say, they do not console us. We would just like to cry and spend time alone. This is necessary: unless we are able to acknowledge our pain, we will not be able to move on.
Second, Jesus slowly brought them out of their misery by inviting them to see the bigger picture. Jesus reminded them what the Scriptures said about Him. He refreshed their memories with the things He said during His time with them. Jesus invites them to see the greater design of life and anchor themselves to a higher plane of possibilities. The prophets said that He has to die and suffer to save humanity. And therefore, death is but a necessary step towards the possibility of salvation.
The ability to see the bigger picture is called resiliency. Usually those who have survived crisis in their lives believe that there is a bigger plan for them. And those who pursue what is right despite the storms in their lives succeed. In the greater scheme of things, they accept the fact that life has difficulties, however, the manner in which their difficulties are met is the deciding factor towards further growth and fulfillment. It should also be noted that another person is needed for one to see the bigger picture, as Jesus did. It can be a spiritual director, a mentor, or friend.
Finally, the disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, and they return to Jerusalem with great joy and enlightenment. Jesus finally gave out the last straw of remembrance: He did what He was known for.
When we are in a crisis, one survival kit is to find a mechanism for finding and sustaining hope. It can be a belief system or faith, the memory of a loved one, or the experience of peace before the crisis. It is no wonder why many of us would take out our photo albums and reminisce the events in our memories. Or, many of us recognizes inherited behavior in others: like sons and daughters possessing a particular way of doing things taken from a parent who recently died. It helps us survive, find meaning and give us the energy to move out of our misery towards great joy.
*I wrote this homily for Sambuhay this Sunday, published by the Society of St. Paul in the Philippines.