Monday, May 8, 2017

TAKE A HIKE: a homily for the Third Sunday in Easter year A (Luke 24:13-35)

I am stationed for the moment in Carlow where there is no public Mass on a Sunday and so no opportunity to preach.  So the homily below has not actually been delivered and is a draft!

How often have you gone for a long walk?  How often during times of stress will someone go for a walk to clear one’s head, get away from a place of stress and conflict?   My late mother was forever threatening to leave us but she didn’t.  I would go for long walks as a teenager to clear my head.  Sometimes the only thing you can do is walk away if only for a time.
Here are two disciples walking away from the stress and danger of Jerusalem.  They are escaping, getting away, perhaps even giving up.  Jerusalem is set on seven little hills well above sea level so these two disciples are not only leaving Jerusalem they are also going downhill.  They are leaving Israel’s sacred city and walking away from all their hopes, dreams and beliefs. 
It is while they are going downhill that the Lord appears and walks besides them.  He opens up the conversation and draws out their feelings of disappointment and fear.  They had expected so much of Jesus.  They had looked forward to a free and holy Jewish Kingdom.  They felt betrayed not only by their religious leaders but also by their own friends.  Perhaps they also felt betrayed by the Lord.  They could not stomach the stories of a risen Jesus that the women told.  Remember that women were not considered reliable witnesses!  It was all too much for them so they are walking away.
It is at this point that the Lord lays into them.  Fools!  They had been with Him for so long and still understood so little.  He explains the scriptures for them to the point that their hearts burn with His Light and the recognition of the Truth.  Still when they reach Emmaus they have to insist on His staying with them.  It is not until He has taken the bread, blessed it and broken it that they recognise Him.  As soon as they do He disappears.
It is then that they rejoin the believers in Jerusalem, their fears dispelled, their faith renewed.  They walk back up the road to Jerusalem, back to the danger and fear but full of joy and hope.  Jesus is risen and the world is changed, changed utterly.  The greatest beauty of all has come into being.
Often we are battered and bruised by the world we live in, the people who surround us.  Our faith in Christ and His Church can be shaken or even snuffed out by scandals and abuses.  It can seem easier to walk away and start afresh somewhere else.  It can seem easier to throw in the towel and abandon the Lord.  We can forget the wonders that have been done for us, the blessings we have received.  It is all too true that eaten bread is soon forgotten. 
Yet the Lord never abandons us.  He walks with us and speaks to us if only we would listen.  Hearing is one thing but really listening is another.  Paying attention to what the Lord is saying takes time and effort for as Elijah discovered the Lord is often found in the gentlest of voices. 
When we give time to the Lord to listen to His voice in the Scriptures, in the Teaching of the Church and in the depths of our hearts we discover the power of His word to transform us.  He wants us to know that everything is ok.  There’s nothing that can happen that we cannot overcome with His help.  There is nothing we ought to fear except sin, that is, doing the things that separate us from Him.  To walk away from Him and His Church is to abandon all hope for our only hope is in Him and the Church He has founded.  There is no other way to Heaven but in and through Him.

The art of being a Christian lies in learning how to listen to the Lord and to recognise the sound of His voice calling us to follow in His footsteps.  It means giving time each day to prayer, to listening to His word in the Bible, to pouring out our hears before Him.  It also means giving time regularly to learning about our Faith and what it demands of us.  It means examining our conscience and bringing our sins to the Lord in the Sacrament of Confession.   Paying this attention to the Lord leads us over time to become better persons, more faithful to the Lord and to the ones we love.  It leads us to have hearts and minds ever more attentive to His voice so that we co-operate more readily with His grace and grow in holiness.  We become founts of grace for others.  We can walk with others who are in despair and bring them to peace, hope and joy in the Lord.

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