Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
Between Easter and Pentecost, what held Jesus' disciples together? Most of the disciples scattered like scalded cats when Jesus was arrested in the garden. Only John and Mary saw him on the cross. Joseph of Arimathea buried him. Until Mary Magdalene and the other Mary ran back from his empty tomb to announce his resurrection, we see hide nor hair of any of the other disciples. We know from Acts that after Pentecost those who had chosen to remain in his Word and received the Spirit eventually formed a community and began to preach openly. But what held them together for the 50 days btw the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost? Fifty days. That's a long time for a frightened group of hunted people to remain loyal to an executed leader, especially when that leader was executed at the word of their family, friends, and neighbors. Two of Jesus' disciples—on their way out of Jerusalem—give us a clue. Luke tells us that these two, depressed and despairing, “were conversing about all the things that had occurred. . . [and] while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them. . .” And he did so repeatedly for the next 50 days.
While walking to Emmaus, Cleopas and another disciple find themselves in the company of a stranger who seems to know nothing about what has happened in Jerusalem over the past few days. They fill him in. Jesus the Nazarene, “a prophet mighty in deed and word” was handed over to the Romans by the chief priests, and crucified. Why are these two so downcast? They answer, “But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel. . .” The two tell the stranger that two women of their group discovered Jesus' empty tomb three days after his death. But no one had seem him there when they went to investigate. Then the stranger berates their lack of faith and asks an extraordinary question, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Who is this guy that he would know anything about the Christ and what is or is not necessary for his entrance into glory? Who is he to berate Christ's own disciples for the foolishness of their slow hearts? Before Cleopas and the other disciple can even form the questions, the stranger shows them how Christ fulfilled all the promises that God made through Moses and the prophets. How did the disciples stay together btw Easter and Pentecost? Christ never left them!
We can certainly understand that the disciples would be a little downcast, knowing that Christ has been crucified and buried. They had reports that he had risen, and they had seen the empty tomb. But they were expecting something more dramatic, more spectacular from their Messiah. They held within their hearts and minds his enduring love and words of wisdom, but was that enough to keep them going until the coming of the Holy Spirit? Apparently not. B/c Christ appears to them repeatedly before his ascends to the Father. He leaves Cleopas and the other disciple when they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. Or rather, he leaves them the breaking of the bread so that they will recognize him. We too know what happened in Jerusalem. And we can retell the story as often as we need to. But along the way, we'll be tempted to despair. When that temptation arises, we know where we can find the presence of Christ—in the breaking of the bread, right here at the Eucharist, giving thanks and praise for his sacrifice as we prepare ourselves for our own sacrifices for his name's sake. What keeps us together btw the first Pentecost and Christ's coming again? We know what happened in Jerusalem; we know that Christ fulfilled the promises God made to Moses and the prophets; and we know that he is with us always in the breaking of the bread._________________
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