Archives for June 2013

Missing the point of Emmaus

Missing The Point At Emmaus

Last Sunday I had the good fortune to hear a friend and neighbor, a Protestant minister, speak on accepting Jesus. He spoke of our Lord’s patience, always waiting for us to let Him in. As an illustration, he showed a picture of one of the stained glass windows in his church. It was inspired by well known paintings depicting Jesus knocking softly at a door, without a latch, locked from the inside. This represents us holding back, sometimes tuning-out the knocking, and not letting Jesus into our hearts.

The speaker used a good scripture reference in support of how our Lord comes to us, softly:

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD — but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake — but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire — but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.

When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Good stuff, beautifully presented. We cover this reading BTW, on the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time in cycle A (most recently: August 7, 2011).

My friend went on to note how it is our choice to let Jesus in. So very true. He then used the story of the disciples walking to Emmaus to illustrate the point. As they walked along, he said, Jesus was not yet revealed to them until they came to a fork in the road and invited him in.

I grant that loosely interpreted there is truth in this, and this was offered in support of his topic, but it really misses the point of Emmaus. The story of Emmaus is very important and worth a close look.

The setting is this: it is Easter afternoon, 2 disciples have left Jerusalem headed for Emmaus. They are uncertain about what just happened, but despondent none-the-less that Jesus apparently was not the redeemer they had hoped for. Let’s take a look:

Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The disciples do not come to a fork in the road, but as evening approaches they arrive at their destination. Jesus is not revealed to them, but rather gratefully invited to stay as one might invite a rabbi after a day of instruction. It was not until later at the meal where Jesus “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them” that He was revealed. It was then that they responded “at once.”

Jesus was revealed in the Eucharist!

Here is how I would summarize this scripture:

  • it is Easter Sunday
  • disciples are gathered (2 in this case)
  • Jesus is literally present
  • the disciples confess their troubles to Christ
  • Holy Scripture is proclaimed and interpreted
  • Jesus consecrates the Eucharist
  • the disciples receive Him
  • they immediately depart to share the Good News

Does this remind you of anything? It is the Mass. Every Sunday we return to Easter as we disciples gather to hear the Word of God and receive our Lord. He is literally present and it is He (through His priest) who consecrates the Eucharist we receive. Immediately after that, strengthened and sustained by Him, we are sent to announce the Gospel of the Lord.

That is The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass today, throughout the centuries, in the very early Church and on the road to Emmaus. What a privilege it was for these disciples to meet Jesus in this way! What a privilege it is for us too, every time we participate at Mass.

Recently I described the nature of the Mass thus: it is a respite from the fallen world, a place where heaven and earth touch in the presence of our Lord. It is He, speaking to us from the Last Supper, who consecrates the Blessed Sacrament. We join Him there in the upper room, through His passion all the way to the foot of the cross. His sacrifice is real and present upon the altar now before us. Being consumed by Him worthily, our venial sins are forgiven and we are in communion with with Him, all the angels and saints, and our brothers and sisters present with us, at every Mass ever offered in the past and every Mass ever to be offered in the future. How awesome is that!



Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

What do you think of when you think of an evangelist? Many would think of Billy Graham, one of the most famous of modern day evangelists. Bishop Fulton Sheen might come to mind. Many might consider Gandhi an evangelist. There are many faithful, dedicated evangelists who have spent their lives furthering the Word of God.

Some might think “televangelists”; those who promise salvation and, in some cases, healing through their television ministry. I remember one who actually said he could heal a listener who simply placed their hands on the TV and prayed with him.

Then there were the tent evangelists. They traveled from place to place, setting up their tents and inviting all in the area to come hear the word of God preached. Neil Diamond sang a song about them; “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show”. Their arrival was a major event in many towns during their day.

Is that what it takes to be an evangelist? A TV show or a stage or a tent? The apostles of Jesus had none of those things, yet they were evangelists. They spread the word of God far and wide. From their beginnings, the Christian faith has traveled throughout the world. For over 2000 years people have been listening to their words read on Sunday and have heard an untold number of sermons about them and their lives.

These were common men who were chosen by Jesus to build his church on earth. They had no special abilities or attributes other than a love and devotion to God and Jesus. Their only source of strength came in the form of the Holy Spirit sent to help and guide them in their mission. Jesus told them, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). With these words, Jesus commissioned his disciples to go and spread the good news throughout the world. To evangelize and to represent him to all they came in contact with.

When you look in the mirror do you see an evangelist? You should. That is what we are to be, evangelists. In the scripture passage above Jesus tasks the apostles to “make disciples” of all nations. We are to be disciples, not followers. Being a follower is a reactive form of Christianity; I will follow were he leads. That is certainly a worthy path to choose, but I think Jesus wants us to practice our faith proactively. We should not just follow, we should evangelize. We should live our lives so that others see Jesus in us.

How are we to evangelize today? In an environment that has taken on a decidedly anti-Christian attitude. It seems that today, Christians are the one, and perhaps only, group that can be slandered, derided, ridiculed and made fun of with no fear of retribution. We are told that we can’t have a manger scene at Christmas. In fact, in many places they are trying to replace “Christmas”, with “Winter Holiday”. I doubt those pushing this change realize that “holiday” is actually derived from “Holy Day”. Otherwise I’m sure they would come up with a different name. I’d like for someone to explain to me what is being celebrated during the “Winter Holiday” if it isn’t the birth of Christ. What are we celebrating? Are gifts still allowed? After all, gift giving at Christmas harkens back to the wise men and the gifts they brought the infant Jesus. So do we have to take away the gifts as well? If we have to strip the holiday of all meaning and sense, then why bother. If it’s just an excuse to take time off from work and school it becomes nothing more than a waste of time and money. It becomes the only holiday without a purpose.

There have been efforts to remove “In God We Trust” from our money. Some want to remove “one nation, under God” from the pledge of allegiance. We aren’t supposed to say prayers at ball games and high school graduations, even though the U.S. Congress opens every session with a prayer. Odd, isn’t it, that some of the same people who are trying to push God out of our lives and our country, have a prayer to begin work. Everywhere we turn there is someone who claims to be offended by any reference to God in any part of life.

If we are to be evangelists, we must follow St. Francis of Assisi’s teaching. He told his brothers, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” His message was to live life in a manner that reflects the Gospel in everything you do. A difficult task perhaps, but one of the only ways the average Christian can effectively be an evangelist in today’s world.

If someone asked the people you work with for a one word description of you, would that word be “Christian”? If it were a crime to be Christian, would those who know you call the police or would they not be aware of your Christianity? I once had a co-worker tell me that, as a Christian, it was my job to push him into Christianity. How sad to think that we must push someone to accept eternal salvation. I told him that I could not push him into Christianity; I could only push him away. My job, as he put it, is to live my life in such a way that he would, of his own choosing, want to be a Christian. I believe that to be true. I do not think anyone can convert a person to Christianity by pushing or force. Those who knock on doors trying to push their particular brand of Christianity on whoever happens to open the door have most likely turned as many people from Christ as to him. My intent here is not to offend anyone. I absolutely respect the faith and intentions of those door-to-door evangelists but I have serious doubts about their success.

Simply living our lives as witness to our faith is a very powerful means of Christian evangelization. Have you noticed when someone in a restaurant pauses to say grace before a meal, most of those who notice will quiet themselves as well? True, there are those who will make some derogatory comment but the majority of people will respect this form of evangelization.

The same applies at work. If you are one of those people who others tend to exclude from their sexual or bawdy humor, don’t feel left out, feel satisfied that your example has convinced them that you would not be interested in participating in that type of humor. You’ve done well in your evangelization.

For several years I have displayed a crucifix on my desk, even though it is technically against the rules of the company. I can’t recall a single time anyone expressed discomfort or offense at this display of my Christianity. Yet, officially, this was prohibited. I would like to think that most everyone who knew me was aware of my faith and believe most were. Though I was never put in the position to have to choose, I would like to believe that I would have refused to remove my crucifix even if it meant losing my job.

As Christians in the United States we have a responsibility to make sure everyone is aware that the first amendment to the U.S. constitution does not say “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” That phrase is not followed with a period but with a comma. The phrase actually reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” (emphasis mine). The concern being considered in the first clause was that of a national or state enforced religion in which citizens would be required to participate. The second clause of that statement, which is usually ignored, is to ensure we have the right to practice our religion without government interference.

If we are to be disciples of Jesus, rather than just followers, we must be aware of our rights to also be evangelists. We must strive to protect those rights from those who would misstate and misinterpret our constitution and our responsibility as Christians. We must also be willing to practice those rights, to “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” St. Francis was a wise man. We must live our life as an evangelist in all that we do. Perhaps someone will notice and change their life for the better because of our example.

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7) Unless we, as Christians, rise to the challenge of becoming evangelists we will have no part of encouraging the sinner to repent. We must be willing to reach out to others in faith and love. We must live our lives as a Christian example that others will want to emulate.

If we ask, God will help us to follow the words of Jesus to his disciples. He will give us the strength to spread the good news, the Gospel. He will give us the courage to confront those who would take this right and obligation from us. All we need to do is ask and be willing to walk the path he chooses for us.

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “Thoughts of God”. Only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony and other fine publishers.

New Evangelists Monthly – June 2013, Issue #6

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