Acts 2:14, 22-33
1 Pt 1:17-21
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and proclaimed . . . . “ Is this the same man who denied Jesus three times?
Is this the same man whose incomprehension provoked Jesus to say, “Get behind me satan?” Peter, who swore he did not know this Jesus of Nazareth, is now proclaiming that He is risen from the dead, that He is the one of whom David spoke. Fearful of being known as one of Jesus’ disciples while huddled around a fire, Peter is now preaching what, to many ears, was blasphemy, that this Jesus had risen from the dead, that He is the One of whom David spoke. Talk about a makeover!
What did Peter look like as he proclaimed these words about Jesus’ mighty deeds, wonders and signs? How did his voice sound? What gestures did he make? It is likely he did not resemble the cowering man in the high priest’s courtyard who said, “I do not know Him.” Something fundamental had changed in him. The change was not subtle. Peter was taking substantial risks as he spoke. Were the hearts of some of his listeners burning within them as he opened this small bit of Scripture, for them? Of course this was after Pentecost. Filled with the Holy Spirit it is obvious that Peter now understood everything that he failed to comprehend earlier.
The narrative of the encounter on the road to Emmaus occurs immediately after Jesus’ death, Luke’s Gospel, with its expertly set scene, is ripe for contemplation. One can sense the two disciples’ despondency. Their weariness is palpable. There are hints of disbelief and fear as they make the long walk to Emmaus. Are they walking away from Jerusalem because their hopes have been destroyed? Are they retreating because Jesus was not the Messiah of their dreams?
Exactly what were they saying while they were “conversing and debating?” Conversing is a neutral word but debating suggests disagreement and attempts by each to change the other’s mind. Who was winning? They seem to have stopped talking when Jesus appeared. They were shocked that their unknown companion was unaware of the events that had taken place in Jerusalem. Jesus’ impatience with them is palpable. How far were they from Emmaus when He joined them? Given that Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets and explained “what referred to him in all the Scriptures,” the conversation must have been a long one.
The two disciples had had hopes for what the Messiah would be. Many of these hopes were attached to the politics of the day and to Israel’s desire to be free of the yoke of Roman domination. The wanted the one of whom David spoke to be military leader, a super-politician and a social reformer all at once. Jesus fulfilled none of those expectations. Given that he seemed to be apolitical it is ironic how often Jesus’ message is politicized and twisted today to promote a particular agenda on the left and the right. We’ve not made much progress since Emmaus. Jesus was not the Messiah Israel wanted. He was the Messiah Israel needed. The same is true for us: Jesus is not the Christ we want him to be or, worse, try to force Him to be. He is the Christ we need.
Jesus’ two companions on the road to Emmaus made were deeply consoled after the fact. “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” Obviously Peter’s heart was now aflame with ardor as he interpreted scripture. In prayer we are continually on the road to Emmaus. In prayer we are continually forced to recognize the one who joins us along the way. We are continually meeting this stranger who we may not recognize at first. We can live and thrive in that tension only if we can say with the psalmist:
“I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
You have made known to me
the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy
in your presence.”
Time is moving fast. Three weeks form now I will be taking off from Boston heading to Paris and then a train to Lyon where I will remain for two months. And then to N'Djamena, Chad where I will spend a month looking at, and being looked at, at the Jesuit affiliated hospital and medical school there. It is going to be an interesting time. I will be glad to get there but the logistics are daunting.
Some more photos from the Triduum in Plymouth at my home church of St. Mary's.
The altar of repose in the downstairs chapel at the church. I had the tripod behind the pew while I was praying and every once in a while would trigger the shutter.
Flowers in front of the altar early Holy Saturday. I liked the less cluttered approach this year.
The votive candles that were all changed and waiting to be lit after Mass. The amount of heat these generate is impressive.
The view of the church from the choir loft. This was early Holy Saturday.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD