Justice Reflections From Fr. Claude

Third Sunday of Easter

Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road…...’ These burning hearts take us further into God’s world.

When Jesus approaches the disciples along the road, ‘their eyes were kept from recognizing him.’ Jesus still ‘meets people where they are’ - whether in locked in a room for fear or walking along the road in grief and despair. One disciple was called Cleopas. It has been suggested that the other was a woman because was not named, but scripture scholar and former archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, said in a talk in Melbourne, that it certainly was not a woman because Jesus never referred to a woman as having little faith! 

Because of grief and trauma, they did not recognise Jesus. Feeling shattered there was nothing to keep them in Jerusalem and Emmaus was an escape into a closed world. Here Jesus invites them to share their story. This is crucial because what is not named cannot be healed. Jesus listens to their specific pain and their understanding of what happened as well as their dashed messianic hopes. They talked about Jesus’ arrest, torture, crucifixion, and death. Their hopes for a different future free from Roman occupation did not materialise and their unmet. The Spirit of Jesus is still at work as Pope Francis invites us to develop a culture of encounter and tell our stories of hopes for a truly inclusive church have not materialised. Is this not the story of First Nations’ people, women, LGBTIQA+ people, people living with disability? The Synodal path is about walking together and in ordinary human gestures of presence, listening and embracing telling our stories. Just as the two disciples walked away, many people, mostly women, have walked away from the Church that still refuses to recognise the equality of women who lament the lack of opportunity to respond to what is deepest in our hearts by serving God’s people as men are able.


God approaches us through ordinary gestures. This occurs in the ordinary taking, blessing, breaking, and giving in the Eucharist and beyond. We see when friends embrace. We see it in the laughter of children at play. We experience it the wonder of Creation. We see it in offering hospitality to a person in need. We see it wherever a stranger becomes a sibling. The disciples have their eyes opened amid everyday reality and are reminded that not all is lost. We are not defeated or alone. Love has won.


For Luke, Jerusalem and Emmaus are not just geographical places but portals of understanding. Emmaus, for which there is no evidence for its existence, is a place to go to escape. The village does not seem to exist. Marcus Borg suggests that Emmaus is nowhere - because it is everywhere. Emmaus was that symbolic place to which we run when we have lost hope or do not know what to do. It is the place of escape, of forgetting, of giving up, of deadening our senses and our minds. It is like the tomb-like setting the disciples created in last week’s gospel as they hid for fear of those outside. It may be a bar, a movie, or a point when we throw up our hands and just give up. It may be where we go to forget that what hold as sacred, that love, freedom and justice, have been twisted out of shape by selfishness. It may even be like to going to church were we avoid the real world – the world of wounded people and Earth – where we may be tempted to close our eyes to those with whom Jesus identifies - ‘the least of these.’


Jerusalem, the setting of the Empire, the place of disappointment, violence, corruption, abuse of power continues to oppress people by inflicting pain, hardship, and death. Though the place of power and violence, Jesus did not respond when the disciples wanted a warrior god to destroy the enemy. He teaches a totally new way of overcoming violence through love – through love and forgiveness of the enemy. He offers a new way of making peace through justice. But Easter is not necessarily good news for those who abuse power then and today as they came to realise that they had placed themselves in opposition to a power stronger than death.


We are reminded that we do not walk alone even when it seems pointless to go on, when our voices and cries for justice and peace seem to be unheard. In our journeying, our peace-making, our caring, our attempts to make a positive change, we encounter many women, men, and children on the same journey. Jesus meets us along the road and, as in the story, we may be rerouted as were the disciples back into the world of others and into the heart of the struggle. We are reminded that whenever goodness is shared, tears dried, comfort given, charity done, he is present. We are all on a journey. Our paths are uneven. Losses, at times are heavy. We might seem to march without purpose whilst searching for some meaning. But we are not alone.


The stranger, who insisted on walking with the disciples, and walks with us, is recognised in gestures of kindness and hospitality. It is along this road that the strangers find one another, cradle one another’s pain, share stories and what they mean, and find the presence of God among them. The road that was taking them away from Jerusalem, away from the place of suffering and lost hopes now is the road that takes them back but this time towards hope, life and love. Hearts that were dull, hopeless, despairing, aggressive and violent can be wakened by the Stranger who accompanies us.


As pandemics still threaten people and disasters – natural and economic - strike with greater severity, we are called to see the One who shares our grief, death, and suffering. As our planet is threatened by the violence of greedy consumerism which has caused ecosystem degradation and resulting in pandemics, we are called to respond to the One who gave, and gives, life to the universe. When war and conflict cause suffering and harm to innocent people, we are called to respond to the One who brings peace. Of course, we can ignore these things and go about our lives as these things do not matter. We can walk with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, we can worship, etc., and then let him walk on, or we can invite him in for a meal, and allow ourselves to be drawn into his life, and through our prayer and action, be open to something breaking out or breaking into our lives that call for another response: ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he was talking to us on the road…...’ These burning hearts take us further into God’s world – the world of the stranger, the outcast, the poor, the abused and minority people. If we welcome them will encounter him, and our hearts will burn within us, and our eyes will be opened to God's presence and power in our parishes and faith communities. This is what it means for us to call ourselves Easter people. It is not so much about believing that God is alive but behaving like God is alive that makes a difference and recognising the Sacred in the stranger as the pathway to justice, peace, and mercy. Whatever religion we hold on to fails us if it does not promote a great sense of the other and appreciation for the other and for creation.


May the risen Christ shape our understanding of the journey and give us renewed energies for what lay ahead. The disciples realize that Jesus has been with them in their actions, conversations and movements along the way. They have never been abandoned and so they race back to Jerusalem ready to serve once again, where Jesus will continue to encounter them in new guises and deep ways which can turn us around again and again and send us back into the world. May we walk alongside one another and listen deeply. As we listen to each other deeply, may our hearts burn and recognise a deeper Presence.

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