3 Easter A’14 •Acts 2:14, 22-33 • 1 Peter 1:17-21 • Luke 24:13-35•
Weekly Scripture Readings: Third Sunday of Easter
Christ is risen!” (Truly he is risen!) Today we set aside the gospel of John and listen to Luke’s narrative describing the experience of two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Here again we know the story well yet cannot be satisfied with such familiarity. My task as a homilist and your task as a member of the Living Body of Christ is to help one another hear what this text says to us today.
Christ is Risen! (Truly he is risen!) The death of Jesus overwhelmed his disciples. Cleopas and an unnamed disciple left Jerusalem because they were disappointed. Their eyes were “downcast.” To the stranger they say, “we were hoping.”
When their eyes were opened they recognized the Risen One. Then they returned to Jerusalem to resume the task of proclaiming “God’s new reality” emerging in our world.
After the II Vatican Council most of us “were hoping.” Then suddenly and unexpectedly it seemed that as bishops of Rome, both Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger were determined to lead us forward into the past. It seemed their agenda was to stop and reverse the renewal of the church envisioned and initiated by the II Vatican Council. A wave of disappointment, frustration and discouragement swept through our household of faith. Many of us, like “Cleopas and the other disciple” in Luke’s gospel, have been “looking downcast.”
Christ is Risen! (Truly he is risen!) Francis, the current bishop of Rome, has given clear signals re-affirming the Council’s vision. His style is pastoral and non-judgmental. The spirit of Vatican II is evident in his request for a church-wide consultation in preparation for the Synod on the Family next October! He has re-awakened our hope.
In spite of that hope a word of caution is appropriate. Our nation was “looking downcast” when the election of Barack Obama awakened a spirit of hope and enthusiasm. Folks relaxed, assuming that election of Obama solved our problems. The anti-war movement relaxed. Those wars continue still!
Francis, the new Bishop of Rome is charismatic and popular. A monarchical papacy and a centralized church are illusory. Placing Francis on a pedestal is a mistake! Expecting him to reform and renew the church is a mistake! Change and reform cannot and will not occur just because the Bishop of Rome awakens our hope.
The task of transforming any centralized top-down institution is enormous. Francis himself seems to understand this. He has said, “long run historical processes require patience and waiting.” It seems his immediate goal as Bishop of Rome is to put effective structures and institutions of consultation and shared decision-making in place at all levels of the church. Thus, a word of caution. The response of most bishops and pastors to his request for a worldwide consultation was subdued, low-key and passive. I doubt any of you filled in the questionnaire.
The Emmaus story is not only about “Cleopas and the other disciple who returned to Jerusalem.” Emmaus is about us. Yes — Christ is Risen! (Truly he is risen!) Yes — Christ is with us even in periods of disappointment and discouragement! Those who experience the Risen One are transformed and become agents of change.
The bishop of Rome recognizes we who have experienced the Risen One have an indispensable role in renewing and reforming our Church. Here is an example of a small thing you can do. Currently in our diocese we lack an “active” Pastoral Council. Speak out respectfully and insist that an effective structure of dialogue and decision-making be established and utilized in our diocese.
The Bishop of Rome needs and apparently expects our support. The “Francis phenomenon” will be effective and lasting, only if we do our part. Christ is Risen! (Truly he is risen!)