“Tell us, Mary: say / what thou didst see / upon the way.” ~ from the Easter Sequence
They say that Homer was blind. We can’t be sure, but we can imagine that when we are looking for the right words within us, when we are immersed in the inner experience, we must abandon the banality of the present moment and its distractions. Homer is the poet who sought the right words within himself in order to portray amazing things.
In the ancient tragedies it often happens that the truth is known by someone who cannot physically see. In Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, for example, the seer Tiresias is blind, but the only thing he can see is the truth. He knows that Oedipus murdered his father. And so, to see well, it can be an advantage to be, in some way, blind.
Often we are so distracted by what is going on around us that we lose sight of the importance and the taste of what we’ve experienced. We are insatiable consumers of the instantaneous, incapable of stopping to recognize the taste of the experience. After having eaten we are already looking for the next meal.
The passage from this week’s Gospel reminds us of the importance of the narrative, of remembrance and of the experience. If today I had to tell the story of what has happened in my life, how would I tell it?
The two disheartened disciples, who were running away towards the unknown place of Emmaus – the city that’s not there – and who don’t want to have anything to do with the community anymore, have an experience that would change their lives. That experience can be narrated. This means that they must have taken the time to rethink what had happened, to try to understand what had happened. They sought the right words to explain it, probably as they walked along the road.
They did not recognized Jesus when they saw Him, but only after He disappeared did they recognize who He truly was. What we take for granted many times hides the deeper truth from us.
In the stories of the Resurrection we often hear of what has happened along the road. The road often becomes a metaphor for life. Along the road we meet people, there are crossroads, there’s a goal. The two disciples meet the Risen One along the road, in the midst of their lives, as they flee from Jerusalem and their minds are traveling through so many confusing thoughts, tangled by disillusion. But suddenly God crosses their path.
The time comes however when, with Jesus, we must stop and rethink our experience, and a meaning emerges: we recognize Him in the breaking of the bread which gives meaning to the road that we’ve walked. We walk and we stop; we live out an experience and we stop to find its meaning.
The moments in which people stop to reflect on their experiences are described in the Gospels as meals (bread, roasted fish…). They are experiences of tasting, of savoring…
When we try to understand what has happened, doubts also emerge. We feel as if we have been hasty in reaching our conclusions; they don’t seem true. It’s too beautiful to have actually happened and we are afraid we are mistaken… and so we distance ourselves from reality and make up a fantasy world.
The disciples are also afraid to revisit their experience, because what they have seen does not match what they believe to be true. Jesus seemed like phantom. Phantom has the same root as fantasy. And so the disciples, and sometimes we also, think that Jesus is a fantasy, a creation of our own minds.
Perhaps they thought that the pain of loss and tragedy were so strong that they were able to provoke in them the sense of His presence. The disciples fear that they themselves have brought about this appearance of Jesus.
We too often experience this same fear, when for example we fear that when we pray we are really just talking to ourselves. And then God surprises us as He comes to encounter us in unexpected ways and that couldn’t have depended on our own desires.
I have always been moved when I see a child trying to feed their doll or their toy. But the food is not eaten. The child might even try to hide it so they can continue to pretend that their doll has really eaten it. Our faith could be a little like this: sometimes we want to pretend that something has really changed in our lives, other times we do well to stop and reflect so as to understand what has really happened.
Only in this way can we become true witnesses. I think our lives will say so much more if we stop to comprehend what God has truly done for us.
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
The Gospel of the Lord
Photo credit: Arthur Poulin / Unsplash
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