Monday, April 28, 2014


Duccio -- Road to Emmaus
The Gospel for this Sunday recounts one of the best known and most intriguing of Christ’s Resurrection appearances – the Road to Emmaus. It has inspired hundreds of artists, including great masters such as Titian, Caravaggio, Velasquez and Rembrandt. This popularity among painters made it a perfect subject for the world’s most famous art forgery – a ‘Disciples at Emmaus’ ostensibly by the celebrated Vermeer, but in reality by the unknown van Meegeren. What makes the episode so intriguing is its ordinariness. Last week’s Gospel of John related Christ’s appearance in an upper room behind locked doors. There is mysteriousness about this that provides the context for Thomas’s understandable doubts. Luke’s account of the Emmaus appearance is quite different. To begin with, these ‘disciples’ were not among the twelve, and though their sadness and puzzlement about the death of Jesus is palpable, the journey they are on seems to be for some practical purpose of everyday life. Most striking of all is this. Unlike the disciples in the upper room, they do not recognize Jesus straight away, but walk with him along the road for quite some time, assuming he is just another traveler. Their moment of recognition comes when they suddenly recognize the characteristic way in which he performs the familiar act of breaking a loaf of bread for supper.

Velasquez Supper at Emmaus

The appearance of Christ to these unnamed disciples resonates well with the vast majority Christians.  Ordinary people, who are neither saints nor mystics, may think and wonder about Jesus certainly, but most of the time they are just getting on with the business of life. The Road to Emmaus alerts us to the possibility that the presence of Christ in the world can be experienced in ordinary life too -- suddenly, and surprisingly, as He is revealed in the people and events of everyday. Often this will be in unexpected places, or even, as Mother Theresa memorably said, in ‘his most distressing disguise’.

Modigliani -- The Servant

These little ‘epiphanies’ invite us to repeat the same ‘question and answer’ that we find in today’s reading from Acts -- “What should we do?”. Peter’s answer to his hearers was “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven”. For those who were baptized long ago, often in infancy, this cannot be the immediate response. Nevertheless, as the practice of renewing baptismal vows implies, we need to acknowledge again and again the truth of which the Epistle reminds us  -- that we have been saved from futile ways of life by the ‘death of Jesus’, and not by any ‘silver or gold’, even if this is what much of our time is spent trying to secure. Grasping this deep truth requires spiritual renewal. The Disciples at Emmaus provide a compelling model of how that can happen. With such renewal we are enabled once more to make our own voices the voice of today’s Psalmist “O LORD, I am your servant. You have loosed my bonds.”

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