Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
Cleopas and the other disciple tell the others about meeting a stranger on the way to Emmaus, about listening to his teaching, and then discovering—in the breaking of the bread—that the stranger was with Risen Lord! While they are all talking about the incident, without warning or fanfare, Jesus just appears among them, and says, “Peace be with you.” Luke tells us that the disciples are “startled and terrified” b/c they think that they are “seeing a ghost.” Startled and terrified? I bet! And I bet that they were a bit embarrassed too. Why? B/c despite Jesus' constant reminders that he would always be with them, the disciples were in a slow panic, verging on despair, and ready to give up. Jesus knows all this, so he asks, almost casually, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” A braver soul might have answered, “Why are we troubled?! You were executed and buried; and we heard that your body was missing from your grave. Then we hear that you might not be dead, and now, you're a ghost! Oh, and we're fugitives b/c we followed you. That's why we're troubled.” So, why are you troubled? Why do questions arise in your heart?
No one here is a fugitive from the law for following Christ. Not yet anyway. No one here is in any danger of being executed, or jailed for claiming an inheritance from the Father. Not yet anyway. No one here is a slave to sin, or subject to death, or bereft of our Father's love. If you were a slave to sin, or subject to death, or bereft of our Father's love, then you would indeed have something to be troubled about. If you're being troubled by the passing things of this world. . .well, you're being troubled by the passing things of this world. We live in this world; we're not of it. Can the temporary nature of these things calm your trouble? Does knowing that worldly trouble fades with time help you at all? Our Lord says over and again, “Peace be with you.” Paul, Peter, John, James, they all say, “Peace be with you.” Think of this as an order, a commandment: Be At Peace! Notice what Jesus does when he sees his disciples' fear. He tells them to touch his wounds. He eats with them. He shows them that all he has taught them about his nature and mission is true; it has all been fulfilled—Moses, the prophets, all of scripture, it has all been fulfilled. If trouble arises then, it arises b/c our trust in God's promises has become shaky, a little rusty maybe.
This is not to say that real world problems result from our failure to have faith. That's not how God works. Faith is our response to God's offer of mercy. When we believe, when we trust in Him, and receive His mercy, no real world problem can trouble us. Sure, we'll have problems. But they won't trouble us. Why? B/c we trust that all that our Lord has taught us has been fulfilled. B/c we know that we are not slaves to sin, subject to death, or bereft of the Father's love. B/c we know that we are residents in this world but not citizens of it; subject to the laws of men but acquitted by the blood of Christ. The disciples in Jerusalem are troubled b/c they do not yet trust that the Old Covenant has been fulfilled in the New; so, their problems appear to them to be not only made by men but also solvable by men. They can't find a solution, thus the troubling questions and doubts. Christ appears in his glorified body to show them that he has conquered trouble, he has defeated anxiety, doubt, and fear. Christ is with us this evening to show us—again—that worry, confusion, dread, all of these and more have been defeated. Leave no time for trouble. We have work to do. Repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, must be preached in Christ's name to all the nations. You are his witnesses. You are his preachers. So, make no time for trouble.______________
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