On the Centre for Excellence in Preaching website Scott Hoezee wrote
“After his wife died, C.S. Lewis once wrote that he thought that his grief might be less if he intentionally avoided the places he and Joy had frequented by limiting his travels to only those places where they had never been together. So he switched grocery stores, tried different restaurants, walked only along streets and paths that he and Joy had never taken. But it didn’t work. To paraphrase Lewis, ‘I found out that grief is like the sky above—it is over everything.’”
I have found no satisfactory explanation as to why these people were walking on the Road to Emmaus. What I did find out was that it was a long walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. In light of what CS Lewis wrote I wonder if perhaps they were ‘switching grocery stores’ ‘walking along streets and paths that they had never taken to try to calm their grief.’ Pure speculation on my part but it gave me pause to think .
In his homily last week Grant shared with us the work of John Fisk, commenting on Corinne Ware’s book, Discover your Spiritual Type: A Guide to Individual and Congregational Growth (Alban Institute, 1995)
Fisk describes four distinct ways of understanding and serving God. He says “the Head Path involves experiencing God through intellect, reason and beliefs. The Heart Path involves experiencing God through emotion, warmth and personal relationship. The Mystic Path involves experiencing God through awe, silence, beauty and mystery. And the Social Justice Path involves experiencing God through a passion for justice and mission to society.”
None of these types are right or wrong, they just are. They reflect the various ways at times in our lives by which we approach God and they impact how we live our life in Christ. A community which is blessed with people that represent all of the these 4 paths is a rich community.
I think that knowing how and why others may be responding the way they are is valuable to us as a community as we enter this new phase of life.
Further, much of what we hear and read in scripture could be approached by examining it from each of these personal spirituality types.
If we look at the gospel today we can find all of the 4 types. This passage is about finding Jesus through the heart, the mind, on the mystic path and confirmation finally through action.
There are two stories of encountering Jesus. The first relates to an encounter with individuals on a journey. The second is within the communal meal and the breaking of the bread. This is for the community of believers and after the Pentecost experience how they will continue to encounter Jesus.
The first is a fleeting moment in time the second remains to today and will remain as long as there is Christian community.
The passage begins with two walking the road and discussing ‘all these things that had happened..’ a very ‘heady’ thing to do.
I can imagine they are tossing around many ideas about how they had been let down by their teacher, and that perhaps what they had heard as they travelled with Jesus during his life was not true and how they were sad not only at his death but at their feeling of abandonment.
Perhaps they felt as CS Lewis .. “ that grief is like the sky above—it is over everything”
Then an image appears to them and challenges them to think about what they are saying. He says to them
‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! …’
…. How slow of heart … In these words alone they are reminded that it is not by logic and reason that one believes but through the heart.
Still, the head remains control in this story as in Lukan tradition we hear ‘he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures’
Through a reminder of an evening meal they had shared together they were enable to understand who this was.
Luke writes, ‘When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.’
For me, this action becomes the hinge moment when the Risen Christ breaks into their hearts ‘Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him;’
Finally they begin to understand and integrate their heart, their mind, and in the sense of awe and mystery the mystic, into their souls.
Some of us may have encountered the Risen Christ in a Road to Emmaus experience but that happens rarely.
We do know that we can encounter the Risen Christ as we share at the table and break the bread and remember that Jesus told his disciples, do this and remember me.
There may be times in our lives when we begin to walk the Road to Emmaus, despondent, sad and longing to understand a death, a loss, an injustice, and we long to understand our grief, our hurt and sense of unfairness.
Hoping as CS Lewis, ‘ that his grief might be less if he intentionally avoided the places he and Joy had frequented by limiting his travels to only those places where they had never been together. ‘
We long for release from our pain and even as those opportunities to do so abound around us, more often then not our HEAD path takes over and we miss the signs of hope along the way.
Gradually, some light, some hope begins to break through and our eyes can no longer remain closed to this light.
My mind allows me to understand that I do ‘see’ Jesus in the actions of Social Justice of others. My heart tells me that I do ‘see’ Jesus in the love and compassion of people within this community. I have seen Jesus in the awe and mystery while in contemplation. Yet still at times I long for Jesus himself to come near.
We can not give up on the hope that we can and will encounter The Risen Christ. Our faith is based on not only a belief in rebirth, in new life but on the meal of remembrance that we share.
As the disciples eyes were opened as The Risen Christ broke bread so may our eyes be opened to new life and hope, as we build a community together centered around the table and broken bread.
I think Ron Rolheiser Canadian Roman Catholic OMI, teacher and writer says it much better when he writes about this Road to Emmaus experience ….
‘Hope is still more real than death. In our hurt, we are struggling for words and grasping for trust. We need to remain on the road to Emmaus. The stranger still stalks that same road. In his company we need to discuss our doubts, discuss the scriptures and continually offer each other bread and consolation. At some moment too, our eyes will be opened. We will understand and we will recognize the risen Lord. Then the dream will explode anew like a flower bursting in bloom after a long winter. We will be full of a new innocence. Easter Sunday will happen again.’