Our Easter story continues today with the eyewitness account of Cleopas, one of many other followers of Jesus. As we are all quite aware, there were twelve disciples in the inner circle of Jesus’ ministry. But there were others, like Cleopas, Matthias, Barnabas and Stephen who, also, were numbered among the believers of the time. From Cleopas, as told by Luke, the physician, we get a feel for what the resurrection was like as witnessed by the average man.
Here was Cleopas, walking to the nearby town of Emmaus on Sunday morning, the first day of the week, and the day of the resurrection. He was walking and discussing the last few days’ events with a friend, when they are joined by the resurrected Jesus (assuming the form of a stranger). As they walk on, Jesus explains the old testament biblical references pertaining to the coming of the Messiah and opens up for them the meaning of all the hardship and suffering he must endure in order to set his people free. The two men are so engaged by the conversation that they invite the stranger to have dinner with them. It is only after Jesus sits down with them, says a blessing, and breaks the bread that their eyes are opened and they realize for the first time, it is Jesus, the risen Lord. At that very moment, Jesus disappears into thin air.
What a fantastic story! And what makes it fantastic is the fact that these men were not the disciples. They were just ordinary people like you and like me. How important to Jesus, it must have been, to give these ordinary men a vision of the resurrection; to stay with them for a six mile hike to Emmaus (which must have taken about six or seven hours).
Today, as we ponder this story, should we not reflect on what we would do or say if we had six hours to kill walking to a town like Emmaus? We, like the men in the story would probably be talking about the daily news. For them it was the crucifixion on Friday. For us, it would probably be the mounting scandals of gay marriage, the acceptance of abortion and the liberal agenda in much of the Church. But for all of us, for them, then . . . and for us, now, it would be a very similar story . . . a story of our leaders and chief priests handing over the innocent to be put into harms way, all for the sake of pride and position in the religious order of the day.
How does it come to that? How does religion become so twisted and deformed that the very people who are entrusted to do what is right become the pawns of forces that seek its downfall? How do godly men get fired for preaching the truth while the guilty are elevated to positions of power? How do a known sexual predators get put into a leadership role in the presence of children . . . all in the name of God?
These are hard questions, and as we walk our six miles with Jesus, he would open for us the scriptures and show us that all is, as it was prophesied . . that in the end times the very elect, the very pillars of the church would be deceived by blind pride and travel far from what has been ordained by God. He would explain that wars and rumors of wars would be the norm and that earthquakes and disasters and famines and floods would herald his return in the end times.
But how can we be sure that this is the case? That all is as it should be? We don’t have Jesus here to walk with, to ask questions . . . to get things explained. But what we do have, is his Word. We have our Bibles and if we read them and thoroughly understand them, we will come to the realization that all is well . . . and all because He Lives!
Some time ago, I watched a movie entitled The Body. It was a story about the uncovering of a secret tomb in the Judean hills that contained the body of a man of about 30 years old who had been crucified and laid in this tomb. The entire movie was about what lengths the Catholic Church would go to, in order to cover up this discovery. What made it so interesting was how real it all seemed. That, if indeed a body like that was actually found (one that might be Jesus), you could just imagine what lengths the Church would go to in order to save the faith. It showed the religious leaders in league with terrorists and others who were willing to kill innocent people in order to keep the status quo.
But for us, in the real world . . . we know that a body like that will never be found because we have written accounts of the resurrection of Jesus from many believers including that of Cleopas in today’s story. We have testimony from the disciples and from the women at the tomb that were witness to his resurrection. And we have our faith that has withstood two thousand years of assault by the enemy and yet, still stands, unyielding in the face of evil . . . and that is why I know He Lives.
But we have, yet, other proof that Jesus lives . . . and that is in the breaking of bread and in the prayers. For it is in the breaking of bread and in the prayers that Jesus revealed himself to Cleopas and the other disciples and it is in this way he continues to reveal himself every time we partake of a meal with friends and every time we pray. For all of us are on a spiritual journey of sorts . . . a spiritual walk to Emmaus . . . if you will. Jesus continues to come and travel with us on our journey in the form of friends, relatives, and strangers along the way. Some of us wonder, where are we going? Others think they may have lost their way. Still others get so tired and simply want to quit. But all of us are heading in the same direction. All of us have the same goal. Because just as our Lord’s goal was the resurrection, so too does he promise to all of his believers, the same goal, which is the Resurrection and the Life.
A parishioner once asked me . . . What do mean? “I’m planning on going to heaven, not resurrecting!” But here is the mystery! When we say we believe in the resurrection of the dead, we’re not just talking about the resurrection of Jesus. We’re talking about the resurrection of ourselves, US! (which is the reason we cross ourselves when we say it). I am always amused at how many people who are Christian have no idea that they will one day live again. Not in heaven, but right here, on earth . . . all over again. That was the whole purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth and dying on the cross and rising again so that one day you too will rise from your own death in your own grave to eternal life. That is the definition of the Blessed Hope of the Resurrection. Jesus was the first fruit of the resurrection and that is why we call him Lord.
The Church is here to continually remind us to seek Jesus in all people, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. This is the main reason we meet each week . . . to rediscover the Risen Lord in each other, in the miracle of prayer and in the breaking of the bread. In this way, Jesus is continually revealed to us, if only we would open our eyes to see His handiwork before us. Amen