With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Luke 24:31
In one period of my life, I lived in Rome. I was assigned to our Generalate for six years, as a member of our General Council. When I got to Rome, I reconnected with a religious friend from my early years of priesthood. She was now a member of her General Council and would soon be elected as Minister General for her Congregation.
Whenever we found ourselves in Rome at the same time, we would often attend Santa Susana Church for Sunday Mass. This Church served English-speaking Catholics. It was an easy walk from our Generalate, Sts. John and Paul. She had to catch several busses.
Many times, as I would walk up the steps to enter the Church, there was a beggar sitting on the top step asking for alms. She would patiently hold out her hand as we entered. I was always reminded of the passage we read from the Acts of the Apostles in today’s first reading, as I would say, “Bon Gorno”, and slip into the Church. Sometimes I would be able to give her some lose change. I would identify with Peter and John as they said to the beggar they encountered at the temple door: “I have neither silver nor gold.” What I did was to include her in my prayer, believing she was the Risen Christ.
The readings today, and in fact, all the readings during Easter Week, are about recognizing the Risen Lord in our midst. The Risen Lord is no stranger to us, for the Resurrected Jesus is very present in our surroundings. Sure, the Risen Jesus is easily recognizable in our Pope, our bishops, and priests, all those people who do good and work diligently to create the Reign of God here on earth. Despite their humanity and personal weaknesses, we believe their loving and compassionate heart guide their mission and ministry.
However, it is more difficult to recognize the Resurrected Jesus walking in our midst marked by the scars of suffering and the injuries of self-imposed wounds. What prevents us from recognizing the Risen Lord is our own narrow world view, our interpretation of those events that have taken place within our lives and the absolute belief that our judgment is true and accurate. This obstinacy prevents us from seeing the Resurrected Christ walking down the road with us, even as we argue about the state of affairs that depress us and lead us to hopeless.
In the Evangelist Luke’s classic account of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, we have people just like ourselves who have seen our hopes dashed because things have not gone the way we wanted them to go. Innocence is put to death. Truth is Crucified. Justice is Condemned. There is no way that God can redeem this situation. What happened has happened.
A stranger walks along side of us and shares with us a different vision, a vision of life that emerges from death, an understanding that suffering is redemptive and that hope overcomes all. We will sometimes break bread with a beggar, and our eyes will be opened. It is indeed the Jesus who rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. And our hearts will burn within us, for we have just had an Encounter with the Risen Lord. Alleluia!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Christ the King Community in Citrus Heights, California.