Today’s Gospel Story tells of two of Jesus’ disciples, bothered and disillusioned by his crucifixion and death, walking to the town of Emmaus, concerned that Jesus hadn’t done what they expected him to do — redeem Israel. Unbeknownst to them, Jesus was walking with them and explaining what he was about. He stayed with them for supper, and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread. It reminds us that as we journey through our life, we don’t so much find Jesus, we recognize him as being with us all the time.
It bothered them that Jesus had not lived up to their expectations. A worthwhile question for us might be what are our expectations of God? What do we do if God is not living to what we want? When we spend time praying the Gospels, not just reading them and getting the same old meaning, so to speak, we find Jesus showing us a God who cares about each of us, and often comes to us through the people around us. For some reason, though, it seems that many of us feel we need an angry God who is judgmental and threatening, so we create that god for ourselves. This god doesn’t like the same people we don’t like, and condemns the people we are afraid of and don’t want to understand. This god also makes us feel that we know how everybody else has to live even though we know very little about their life, their story, or the state of their conscience. We feel safe in having all the answers. We’re not looking for the truth, we feel we have it and want to impose it on all others.
In living his Father’s love Jesus reached out to people who were judged and condemned by the Temple System for any number of reasons: lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, infidels, and others. He did so in a way described by Pope Francis as “accompanying”, which means just being with them, encouraging and not condemning them. When we have begun to experience God’s loving care for us in our own life we find a different way of being with others who are hurting for whatever reason. There are some folks, though, who cannot or will not let God’s loving care become a real experience for them. Instead they make themselves judges over people whom they fear and do not understand. They claim to be acting in Jesus’ name, and so cannot face or recognize their own pain.
A worthwhile prayer for any who are trying to be disciples of Jesus might be along the lines of “How can I help you live our Father’s love here and now with this particular situation I am in”, with trusting openness and no stipulations, and we need to be ready to be pleasantly surprised, because this happens in ways we don’t expect.
God happens in our lives through people. What happens when we judge and condemn our LGBTQI sisters and brothers because of how they see themselves, what they want to be called, or whom they love? Very simply, we are saying “God I will not accept or recognize you in this or that person; they are wrong and sinful, and if you won’t condemn them, then I will, because I know how they should be treated even if You don’t. This just generates more hurt on all sides. As the suicide rate reflects, this is obviously true with our young people who are lonely and suffering as they go through the normal practice of trying to figure out who they are. Pope Francis calls us to accompany them, not condemn them or threaten, just be there with them, open to the Spirit. It might be that God who loves us all as we are is asking us to be his caring and understanding for these good folks created as they are in God’s own image.
Then there is also the current tragic situation of health care, especially for women. People who have no understanding of what it is to be a woman are making legal decisions over what kind of health care women can have. It would not be hard to see Jesus, the personification of God loving and caring, being with everyone on all sides of this question, not judging, just accompanying in our Father’s love. God is in, loves and cares for, everyone of us and all creation. We have a part in this.
The role of any who would imitate Jesus is not to point fingers, abuse, condemn, but to be open to the Spirit and ask the wisdom and courage to act. Fortunately, many good people of all traditions and lifestyles are doing this very thing in our midst, often at great cost to them.
In the Story the two disciples recognized Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread, what we call Eucharist, or Mass. In Eucharist, we celebrate and give thanks for our loving God’s presence in and among us. It reminds us that the same God we celebrate here is the loving Presence in all of us and all of creation. The James Webb Space Telescope has shown us marvelous pictures of God present in so much beyond what we see every day. We are truly part of something wonderful, good, amazing, caring. We might ask what is our cooperative response. How can we help live God’s amazing, healing, supporting love in our life here and now. Just sayin . . .
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Fr. Sheil I just read this and as always you bring reality to our faith! It is not for us to judge. Recognize the good the bad and the ugly. All have a message for us to reflect on and learn to be better Christians. Always recognize God’s message in our lives! We think we have the answers BUT surprise God knows what is best! Our wants are not always our needs. Be open to look beyond!
I always look forward to your sermons and insights!
Blessings and Gratitude.
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