[Easter Sunday, Year C, 27 March 2016, Afternoon Mass: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 / Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23 / Col 3:1-4 / Luke 24:13-35]
Happy Easter, the Lord is risen. Alleluia! It is time for a fresh start and a new beginning. The Easter chick has hatched and that chick is Christ himself. The big Easter egg blocking the tomb has been rolled away and death no longer has any power over him. Do we realize what is at stake here? It is the chance to live in a TOTALLY new way. Do you want that? Of course that was the hope that sustained us through the 40 gruelling days of Lent, of fasting, prayer and almsgiving which as I am sure we have learned are the basic Christian exercises for the whole year!
The possibility of a radical newness is echoed in the words of Pope Benedict XVI — “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed…do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.” Come on – let us take advantage of this great offer!
So let us turn to the gospel to see how to start living this new life (Luke 24:13-35). One thing we see is that it is not automatic! The two disciples on the way to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus at first. We rely actually on the fact that God is the one who takes the initiative to reveal himself to us. Jesus is the one who approaches, he enters into a dialogue with them and he challenges them even, by asking, “Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer before entering into his glory?” If you look back on some experiences of suffering it is true that the experience of resurrection followed and the suffering was necessary to enter into that new life.
Once we went to a retreat in Tagaytay. We were having a sharing in a little bamboo hut. One person looked up and calmly pointed to a big snake. To be exact just the skin! The snake had left behind its shed skin because without that shedding there is no growth. I remember sometimes how hard it was studying for my medical exams but of course afterwards you feel happy and nearly forget the suffering when everyone begins to call you “Doctor.”
An essential feature of the resurrection appearance on the way to Emmaus is that Jesus explains the scripture to the disciples. For them it was like a fire burning in their heart and they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread which is the Eucharist for us. We are offered all the means to live a new life: the help of the believing community, the gift of prayer with the Word of God and of course the Eucharist. That is why St Paul exhorts us to seek what is above. To think of what is above and not what is on earth (Colossians 3:1-4).
If we want a new resurrected life we first need to resurrect our brain, our mind, our way of thinking. What way of thinking do I need to change? Maybe I need to leave that negativity in the tomb where it belongs, or that laziness to pray. Don’t remain dead but enjoy the resurrection with the Risen Lord.
In these last few days I have spent it on a retreat. It has been a wonderful experience of living the Triduum with Jesus, being with him in the Last Supper and the washing of the feet, walking the way of the cross, realizing my part in his suffering and death. But today is a day of rejoicing because He is risen. There is a great song called “Trading My Sorrows.” The opening line runs: “I’m trading my sorrow. I’m trading my shame. I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.” It is time to trade in our sorrows and embrace the joy of the Lord. Those disciples of Emmaus were so encouraged by the resurrection experience that they had a total turn around, literally 180 degrees. They were running away from the community, trying to get away from Jerusalem. But after the Risen Lord revealed himself, they went back to their community to announce that they had seen the Lord and he had made himself known in the breaking of the bread.
Let us pray that our Easter experience can work this change around, turn around or pass over in our lives. For that we have the Christian exercises of prayer, community and cross — and of course mission. A new life is possible with new options of prayer, a new commitment to our relationships and to loving others, new eagerness in assuming the challenges reassured knowing Christ has conquered death and finally a renewed commitment to the mission entrusted to us. What is the mission? Like the disciples of Emmaus, to announce that we have seen the Lord. The Lord is risen, alleluia. Amen.