Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily April 6, 2008. Ken Hughes, SJ. The road to Emmaus

Homily.  April 6, 2008.  Ken Hughes, SJ.  The road to Emmaus

In the latest poll, 81% of Americans polled said that we are on the wrong road,  the wrong road on the War in Iraq, the wrong road on health care, the wrong road on the economy, the wrong road on human rights, the wrong road of the environment etc. etc.


Well, the two disciples in today’s Gospel were on the wrong road too.  They were on the road of  despair and escape.  They were running away from Jerusalem even though they had heard reports that the tomb was empty, heard reports that women had seen a vision of angels, heard the reports that the angels said that Jesus was alive, and knew that their leaders had checked all this out and found it was true.  They focused on the one negative statement in the midst of all the positives:  Jesus had not been seen.  Why didn’t they stick around and wait and see for themselves?  Where was their faith?  Where was their hope?   Maybe, they were afraid that they might get their hopes up only to be dashed again. Or, maybe they were afraid of what it would mean if they discovered that Jesus was truly alive.  How would they have to live their lives differently?  Could they do it?  Better, safer,  to just keep on  walking away.


We know what happened.  Jesus, as a stranger, joined them on the road and he did two things.  1)  He listened to their story, and 2) He spoke to them from Holy Scripture.

Telling the story lifts the burden, doesn’t it?  And when the word of God has something to say to our story, that is when we feel that burning, that stirring within our hearts, and something begins to change.  Hope emerges.


Jesus changed the whole story by changing the word, “but” to the word “and.”  The two disciples told Jesus that the chief priests and rulers had handed Jesus over to be sentenced and crucified, “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”  Jesus does not deny the first part about his crucifixion and death.  But, He changes the conclusion to “and I did redeem Israel, not only Israel, the whole world too.  I just did it God’s way, not your way.  I did it not by inflicting suffering on others, but by taking it on myself.


Like the disciples, we would like happy outcomes without suffering, but Jesus keeps showing us that the most meaningful outcomes result from the willingness to sacrifice and suffer, -- not that suffering is good in itself,  but, as in all of life, the seed must fall to the ground and die to produce real life and good fruit in abundance.   


The road that Jesus walked from Bethlehem to Jerusalem was the right road.  It took him 33 years to get there.

The road that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. walked from Atlanta to Memphis(40 years ago this past week) was the right road.  It took him 39 years to get there.

The road that the two disciples walked back from Emmaus to Jerusalem was the right road provided that, empowered by their experience at Emmaus, they now gave themselves wholeheartedly to the gospel of love, of peace, of caring, such as we see pictured for us in The Acts of the Apostles concerning the early Christian community.


On these roads one needs strengthening.  Jesus was strengthened by his Transfiguration experience on Mt. Tabor.   Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was strengthened by his kitchen table experience when he heard God say, “Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness.  Stand up for justice.  Stand up for truth.  And lo, I will be with you…”  The two disciples were strengthened by their experience of seeing Jesus in the breaking of the bread.


Every Sunday, when we come together to celebrate Mass, we re-enact the Road to Emmaus Story.  In the penitential rite we acknowledge all the darkness and sinfulness and lack of faith that we walk in.  Then we listen to the word of God in Scripture and let the Spirit of Jesus speak to our hearts.  And then we meet Jesus in the Eucharist.  Sometimes, with the eyes of faith we do see him.


The key question then is:  how do we return to the Jerusalem of our homes, our workplaces, our schools?  Do I bring this experience of Jesus with me?  Am I more joyful and spirit filled?  Am I more committed  to the gospel, to being Christian, to be willing to walk with faith to the destiny that God has for me?  Am I  taking Jesus’ place as the stranger on the road, walking with others in need?

We hope to have the courage to embrace the Jerusalem or Memphis in our own life.

Dr. Kings’ final words on his road were, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” The two disciples surely said the same thing when they returned to the community.  And may we proclaim those same words especially during this Easter Season, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” – and live this vision with new energy and joy.

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