Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Monday

Acts 10:37-43 / Luke 24:13-35

There are two kinds of discoveries, two ways of coming upon insight and understanding, each delightful in its own way, but it would seem quite opposite in motion, one from the other. Sometimes we learn something altogether new, something we had not known, indeed could not know before. Nothing in ourselves, no resources of our own could provide what this other place, this other sight, this other person who enters our lives unknown before to us can reveal. So it is when we travel to places we have never been, visit or examine objects our eyes have never seen, or meet up with people for the very first time. This is indeed a delight, one which calls us out of ourselves, in which we are dependent on the openness of the other to make himself known, dependent on the generosity of others to announce to us their good news which, apart from their proclamation, would be for us as though it were not.

Other times, we learn something, most often about ourselves, that having learned, we realize we had indeed known, or at the very least could or should have known all along. We find that we had already the resources at hand, from within ourselves or our experiences, to provide that which only just now has attracted our attention and understanding. So it is when we discover, long after the fact, that we are in fact in love, and in that discovery much that we have thought, said, or done for days, weeks, even years comes before us with a clarity so vivid that we wonder we had ever been able not to know. This, too, is indeed a delight, one which calls us back to ourselves, in which we make full use of the resources we have had at hand all along, needing only to be open to a truth which is, while surprising to us, nonetheless in its own way altogether expected and familiar.

In the appearances of Christ, risen from the dead, to his disciples, we find that Jesus Christ has resolved and joined these two seemingly incompatible joys, the joy of learning what is altogether new from the words and deeds of another and the joy of seeing with clear vision what we find we have known all along. Peter, in his preaching to the people after the descent of the Holy Spirit, after recounting in brief the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, asserts that God has not made the Good News of eternal life generally known and available, accessible by each person on his own terms. Him God raised up the third day, and gave Him to be manifest, not to all the people, but to witnesses preordained by God: even to us, who did eat and drink with Him, after He rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He Who was appointed by God to be the judge of the living and of the dead. Likewise, Cleopas and his travelling companion on the road to Emmaus find that while they talked and reasoned with themselves about Jesus, they nonetheless remained sad. It is in the encounter of the stranger on the road, Jesus Himself ... drawing near, that they are made open to the newness of what has happened. Jesus permits them the joy of telling him the things that have been done in Jerusalem, and the joyful signs of something unexpected — the angels appearing to the women and the sepulcher found empty. For his part, Jesus, still to them a stranger, gives them what they did not have. Was not our heart burning within us whilst He spoke in this way? Indeed, that this stranger was Jesus would be known to them not in their discover, but through his disclosure, the gift of the breaking of the bread.

At the same time, these stories remind us, as Peter reminds his hearers, as Jesus recalled to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, that what happened to Jesus, not only his death but also his glorious resurrection from the dead, ought really to have been both familiar and expected. As Peter proclaims, To Him all the prophets give testimony, that by His name all who believe in Him shall receive remission of sins. On the road to Emmaus, while their eyes were held that they should not know Him, the disciples in fact knew both Jesus and the Scriptures. As the risen Lord reminds them, O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things that were concerning Him. In fact, the burning of their hearts from his way of speaking was not only because of what was new, but also because he opened to them the Scriptures. What Peter, Cleopas, and his companion came to see, and announced as privileged witnesses to those who did not see the risen Lord — The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. — is that what we most long to know, what we most long to hear, has already been spoken to us from of old, and when shown us, we marvel that we went so long in sadness.

Jesus Christ risen from the dead is ever fresh and ever new, come to us beyond our knowing and expectation, a gift from above which calls us out of our selves to receive at the hands of others. Jesus Christ risen from the dead is from of old, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, what any who has attended to the rhythm of the seasons, the natural wisdom of the sages, or the supernal wisdom of the prophets, ought already to have known. There is joy in the new. There is joy in the old. Turn wherever we like, and there stands the Lord Jesus, risen from the tomb. What, then, are these discourses that we hold one with another as we walk, and are sad?

The Lord is risen, and hath appeared to Peter, alleluia!

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