I’m sure I’m not alone in finding the spirit of Easter a little distant this year. He is risen. People are suffering. Alleluia?
Which is why today’s Gospel, about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, is resonating with me so much.
It is Easter. The Lord is risen. The women have reported their experiences at the tomb. But Cleopas and the other disciple are walking, pondering, mourning, gossiping. Disbelieving. When Jesus confronts them, they speak about him in the past tense: “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”
“Oh, how foolish you are!” Jesus says. But then he explains. He walks with them. He stays with them, when they invite him. And then he makes himself known in the breaking of the bread. (A lot of us seem to be finding our peace in fresh bread these days.)
These disciples know Jesus, but they don’t recognize him in his resurrected form. They have to be taught how to see him.
Like the two disciples on the first Easter, I’m having to let myself be taught to recognize the Easter in this mess. We’re figuring this out. We’re walking with Jesus, letting him explain, and begging him to stay with us for one more night.
So this is the part of the reflection where I ask myself how Jesus is opening my eyes to the signs, the sacraments, of whatever inner graces I’m finding in all this. But this is not where I list all the ways that the witness of doctors, nurses, first responders, caregivers, grocery store workers, transportation workers, postal workers, and sanitation workers is helping me remain optimistic. The truth is that I am not optimistic these days. Far more essential workers are dying than need to, forced to work in unsafe conditions because of incompetence and greed. And while I keep hearing that we’re all in the same boat, it is very clear that some of us have yachts and some of us are drowning.
Yet we are commanded to live in hope. Easter is a good time to review the distinction.
Optimism is a prediction about the future. Hope is beyond time. It says: Even if I do not see in this life, still I believe. Even though it feels foolish, still I cling. Even when it’s bad and not getting better, still I know that things are okay in the deepest, truest sense.
Even when my Lord has been stripped, beaten, and executed, still I will find him walking the road with me—because Love can’t stay dead.
I have a lot in common with Cleopas and his friend. They look the risen Lord square in the face and say, essentially: Well, we thought Jesus would save us, but everything is bad and getting worse. We’re anxious. A lot of nonsensical rumors are making their way around.
And Jesus, embodying the whole plan and how the good and bad somehow coalesce into a single story of Love, looks at them, and me, and you, and asks: Do you still not trust me? I am risen.
Alleluia—if only my eyes are open to it.