Jesus transforms suffering into love
Fr. Jordi Rivero
The account of the disciples on their way to Emmausis full of teachings (Resurrection, Scripture, Eucharist, Church, Opening of the minds). Here I focus in Our Lord´s desire that we know the value of His suffering and of ours.
"Our hope had been"
The disciples on the way to Emmaus said about Jesus: "Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free". Their hope was well founded for He "proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people". Yet now their hope is a "had been", gone because they saw Him crucified.
The reality of Jesus' suffering and death seemed to contradict all the miracles that He had performed. Was He a magician that fooled the people into believing the impossible? Suffering and death appeared as the victors who had vanquished Jesus. He was finished. The two men were walking away from the Christian community, "their faces were downcast" as they returned to their old hopeless lives. Is that not what often happens after a good retreat when at the end it is said that "we are going back to the real world?". Is that not what happens so often after the Easter celebrations?.
The foolishness of men and the wisdom of God
Some women from the Christian community had "astounded" the two men that morning before they began their walk to Emmaus. The women reported that He was not in the tomb and that angels had declared Him alive. Some others went to the tomb and verified what the women had said. But, given the undeniable evidence of Jesus' crucifixion, the men of Emmaus doubted. They thought it would be foolish to give credence to reports about angels and an empty tomb. They did not even bother to go to the tomb and seefor themselves. After what they saw on Friday they were afraid of hoping again. So they went back to slavery to the powers of the world where might makes right and death is the end of all. God seemed far away, not willing to intervene in human affairs.
Jesus tells them:"You foolish men!". Yes, dear family, how foolish it is to loose faith after we have come to see so many signs from the Lord which confirm the truth about Him, only to revert to logic of the world. Let us recognize our own foolishness!. How many times have we been there! The gospel tells us that behind this blindness there is a sinister force that did not allow them to recognize Jesus walking with them: "something prevented them from recognizing him". What is that "something" that prevents us also today from recognizing Jesus and placing fully our trust in Him? Is it not our own fear of suffering and dying to ourselves? We have been hurt to many times and now, like the Israelites in the desert, prefer the slavery of Egypt than the trials of the desert.
"Was it not ordained that the Christ suffer and so enter into his glory"
Jesus goes to the crux of the matter: The "something" that blinds us is the fear of suffering. Suffering seems to prove that evil has the upper hand, it makes us doubt God's love. Why doesn't He end the horrible suffering in the world? Why can the powers of the world impose themselves, threatening us with suffering?
To confront and dispel the disciple's man centered view of the events, Jesus tells them: "Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?". Here is the key: Christ willingly embraced suffering and death in order to conquer them. This was ordained by the Father for our sake. It was a free loving decision of God. Therefore, His suffering is not in defeat but truly is His victory, the gate into his glory! Suffering and death no longer have power over Him or over those who are in Him. "Death is swallowed up in victory", "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" 1 Cor 15:55-56.
The world continues to be full of suffering. Christians suffer too but Christ has given us the power to embrace it and offer it united to Him at the Cross. Then our own suffering is transformed into a powerful, victorious act of love. Suffering, the very thing that Satan uses to threaten us, to keep us in fear and hopelessness, becomes at the Cross Satan's total defeat. When we offer our suffering to God, the Holy Spirit enshrines our act of love into the infinite love of Jesus at the Cross. Our suffering becomes His suffering, our love His love. This is the love of the victim united to the Victim of love. This is the wisdom of Mary, the martyrs and all the saints. They accompany us in our journey, encouraging us to offer our sufferings as they did and not give up in the face of evil. We too should encourage each other in this way.
"Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself".
At the transfiguration the Apostles saw Jesus conversing with Moses and Elias. In this way He taught them that the Scriptures refer to Him and to the events of His life. He was preparing for the most difficult event: the impending scandal of the Cross. But they failed to understand. Then, after the cross, when the disciples were walking away in defeat, the resurrected Christ again explains the scriptures, "starting with Moses and going through all the prophets", so they could see that they "were about himself". He centers the entire plan of God for our salvation in that He "ordained that the Christ suffer and so enter into his glory".
Dear family, see how much Jesus wants us to discover that all of divine revelation culminates with His act of love at the cross! This love is fire in His heart which now began to burn in the hearts of those men as they listened to Him. They began to understand everything in light of love of Jesus at the cross. Now they began to see that suffering acquired a new meaning at the Cross! Their foolishness was replaced by the foolishness of God!
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Cor 1:25
Jesus "made as if to go on"
Jesus had taken the initiative to approach the two disciples, even though they had lost faith in Him. Jesus does not give up on us. This is mercy! He had shown them their foolishness and replaced it with the wisdom of the Scriptures, centered on the cross. Mercy upon mercy! Now, as the they approached their village, the Lord gives them the freedom to make their decision. He "made as if to go on" and it is up to them to ask Him "stay with them". Every person needs to make this decision. Many claim to follow Jesus but do not accept the path of His cross. At that point they go away to their homes without Him. Yet Jesus does not give up seeking each one of us.
"He took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened"
Emmaus represents the Holy Mass. They had heard Jesus explain Scripture on the way (First part of the Mass). Now they they hear the words of consecration and they see Jesus! But He disappears. He is now hidden in the appearance of bread. The Holy Spirit also transforms them into living hosts, blessed and broken in order to be sacrificed, given and eaten.
The Lord is teaching us so much. Let us listen, let us allow Him to be burning in our hearts, to bless us, break us and make us victims of love with Him!
"Yes, it is true"
What they did next is a sign of a true encounter with Jesus: Even though it is night and they are very tired, they do not wait for the next day. They run back the 7 miles, retracing the whole days journey. We must do the same: Undo humbly the errors of our life and go back to the heart of the Church. Our experience is then confirmed by the Church we thought was meaningless: "Yes, it is true" He is Risen and our lives are transformed in His.
Dear family, yes, it is true! So let us not doubt the graces that we are receiving. Do not be discouraged by any trial, rather allow all sufferings to be our loving offering as victims united with the Victim. Jesus is risen and now lives in our hearts!Aleluya!
But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. -1 Peter 2:20-25
You would think that after the experience of seeing Jesus resurrected, running 7 miles and the witness of the apostles, those men were ready to conquer the world for Jesus. Not so!Jesus appears again and they are scared to death!.
They were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? Lc 24:37-38
But Jesus does not give up. He again explained to them Holy Scripture as he had done on the way to Emmaus, how they prophesied that He must suffer and then rise again.
He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this -Lc 24:46-48
Me hear Scripture at every Mass, but are our minds opened? We need to pray for our minds to be opened to scripture, to be opened to truth that goes beyond our expectations. This is the only way we will understand and follow the Lord.