Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Road to Emmaus: Pathway to Paschal Mystery

The Gospel from today's Daily Mass tells the story of two disciples of Jesus on the road to Emmaus after the Crucifixion and alleged Resurrection of the Lord (Luke 24:13-35). They are discussing the events that have recently unfolded when Jesus joins them in such a way that they are unable to recognize him. He joins in the discussion and asks what they are talking about. They seem incredulous that he isn't aware of what has transpired. They tell him about Jesus, their dashed hopes as a result of his crucifixion, and the Resurrection event reported by some women disciples. Jesus than turns the tables in dramatic fashion and remonstrates them with equally forceful credulity at the disciples hardness of heart in not understanding that the Messiah was destined to suffer and sacrifice. Jesus than interprets all the scriptural passages of the Hebrew Scriptures that refer to him in a way that begins correcting their flawed understanding.

The story of the journey to Emmaus is less historical than metaphorical. The "Road to Emmaus" is a portrait of the life of discipleship and how it is a matter of acquiring a new way of seeing and experiencing reality, and, ultimately, walking the pathway to Paschal Mystery. Initially the disciples are "reactive" to the circumstances of Jesus' crucifixion and Resurrection - meaning, they are reacting with the normal, knee-jerk and very human response of the "woe is me" emotions of confusion, fear, disorientation, and, even, sorrow, and perhaps a tinge of self-pity. What Jesus exhorts them to do is to exchange their "reactive" response for a reflective response. A reflective response is one that is grounded not only in objectively analyzing a situation but also making a free choice of how to interpret an event, and, for that matter, our lives. In so many words, Jesus is helping the disciples to not only understand the facts of scripture more accurately in regards to himself, but, more importantly, he is empowering them to choose hope and new life rather than surrender to despair and death.

I recently experienced a bit of a health set-back at a very inopportune time. Initially, I "reacted" to the news with a "woe-is-me" complex and for a time was yielding to fear, sorrow, and self-pity. I asked the question, "why THIS and why NOW?" Than, after being moved by what I believe was a genuine nudge of the Spirit, I transitioned into a mode of a more reflective understanding. In reflecting on this set-back, I realized that it is much better that I experience it precisely now rather than even two months from now or later. In a sense I chose to opt for hope and new life rather than to yield to despair. The main reason for moving from reactive to reflective understanding isn't so that we can be more positive, it's so that we can be more paschal. A positive attitude is something that more or less rides along the surface at best, and, at worst, can be a bit "polly-annish" because it fails to recognize or react appropriately to truly disturbing and distressing events. Sometimes lemons simply can't be made into lemonade - life doesn't always provide the water and sugar!! A paschal attitude, to the contrary, is about something much deeper: namely, the hope that the cards life deals us, even the ominous and threatening, can be an occasion for being drawn closer to God and to others as sources of love, support, and new life. Pat, TOR