Sunday, March 6, 2016

Pope Francis and Emmaus

I know this weeks gospel is on the Prodigal Son. The thing is I just ordered a book on that parable. So I don't want to blog on it now because I have before and will likely again fairly soon. So I thought I would give you some thoughts from a conference I went to yesterday. The most interesting talk was on Luke 24:13-35, the story of Jesus' appearance on the road to Emmaus. This one of Pope Francis's favourite passages. 

The story starts on Easter Sunday with two disciples leaving Jerusalem and waling to Emmaus about 7 miles away. The Pope sees these as falling away Catholics. Jerusalem stands for the church. Leaving it is a bad thing. It is where the risen Lord is. It is where the apostles are. It is the centre of the faith and these believers want to leave it at a time of crisis. Not a good sign. Plus, the name of the town of Emmaus is a bit of a pun. It sounds like the joining of two Greek words meaning dejected one. So they are disillusioned and hurt. 

Then Jesus comes up and walks beside them. He engages them in conversation. He asks them to explain their frustrations. They are kept from recognizing Him. 

The Pope sees in this a model for what we are to do. Always begin the conversation by listening. You don't do this primarily to get information although that might be a side benefit. Jesus listened quietly as they accused Him of being completely ignorant of what happened on Good Friday. They needed to talk. He needed to listen as an act of love. We need to do that to. Spend more time loving and listening before we say anything. In fact, it is sometimes better if they don't recognize us as orthodox Catholics. Jesus approached them just as a fellow traveller rather than right away as a teacher.

Then when He does speak He speaks bluntly. His first line is, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken." So He is not just about affirmation. There is a point where lack of faith and lack of obedience need to be identified. How else can anyone realize they need forgiveness? We often do need to be blunt because the human mind tends to get defensive and subtle criticisms don't penetrate. We need to very plainly say a significant part of the issue lies with them. This requires courage especially in our society where it is considered impolite to contradict anyone on religion.

Yet Jesus does not stay there. He goes on to explain at length the ways the Old Testament is about Him and about the crucifixion and resurrection. He does a bible study with them. The greatest bible study ever! That is He starts with a part of the faith they do accept and draws them into parts they are having trouble accepting. This requires patience and a good understanding of the faith. 

Then he looks like He is going further. They invite Him in. This is important. Once you have opened the topic of religion and made your case for the faith then it is still up to them whether or not to continue that conversation. Always be prepared to give people time and to even give people the right to say No. 

The speaker here suggested that maybe these two disciples might have been a married couple. An interesting thought. He suggests it from the fact that they lived in the same house and that Cleopas might be the Greek version of Clopas who is mentioned in John 19:25 as the husband of one of the women at the cross.

Once they invite Jesus in based on the word then they are ready for the sacraments. Their hearts might burn when we share the scriptures with them but they will really know Jesus in the breaking of the bread. That is very important. Sometimes we feel if we warn them off some of the bigger sins in life that is enough. We need to lead them all the way back to hunger for the mass. 

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