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The WORD. The TRUTH.

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Homily for Wednesday within the Octave of Easter, 20 April 2022, Lk 24:13-35

The paralytic was just asking for alms, perhaps some spare change. But he got more than what he was asking for. He was able to walk again!

When there is a beggar knocking at your car window, you normally do not want to look at her, especially if you have no spare change in your pocket or you really are not in any mood to give her anything. You would look elsewhere so as not to have eye contact with her. But you are conscious that she’s still there looking at you. And to call to call your attention, she knocks at your car window.

In our first reading today, it’s quite the opposite. It is Peter who is saying to the paralytic, “Look at us.” And then, probably after realizing that his pocket was empty, he said, “We have no money to give to you. But we will give you what we have, that is more precious than silver or gold. In the name of the Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” Not only did the man stand up and walk, Luke tells us he went around jumping and praising God.

There are many instances in our lives when we get paralyzed like the beggar in the first reading. The two disciples in the Gospel were no different. They were suffering from what psychologists would call a PTSD (post-trauma stress disorder). I have known of people who have not recovered from a PTSD, they have fallen into a prolonged state of depression. Some are just not able to function anymore, or even relate normally with others. Some simply lose a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

There was a journalist who said he had interviewed President Zelensky recently, and that during the interview, Zelensky crumpled before him. He did not elaborate much about it. Maybe he meant Zelensk’s voice cracked and he became emotional or he broke into tears? That is not necessarily a sign of a breaking down because Zelensky seems to continue to be very functional despite the extremely stressful experience of seeing his people dying every day and many cities in his country being reduced to rubble by Russia.

The two disciples were not only in a state of trauma. They seemed to have lost hope. It’s like the world had blacked out for them after Jesus was violently executed on the cross. They have left their companions and are now running without a direction. Their grief has put them in a state of spiritual paralysis.

This story of Emmaus is a favorite text of Pope Francis. It is his main source of inspiration for his call for SYNODALITY in the Church. In my talk tomorrow afternoon at the 2nd National Mission Congress, I will refer to SYNODALITY as a better alternative or a less threatening term than EVANGELIZATION. Evangelization is a word that carries with it an overload of negative connotation because of the way it has been instrumentalized in the past for colonization.

The mission to evangelize or to share a good news begins with a simple act of accompanying people in their life’s journey. Luke describes the missionary Christ as the stranger who draws near and walks with the disciples. He enters into their conversation not by immediately lecturing to them, but by first listening to their tragic and painful story, or allowing them to do a “debriefing” if we may use a psychological vocabulary. He allows them to express to him their disillusionment. Only after that does he draw from the Scriptures in order to help them find some light or make some sense of what they had been through in Jerusalem.

Later they would look back and say their hearts were like burning as he spoke with them on the way, but they did not recognize him until he sat at table, took the first morsel o bread and broke it for them.

I really do not mind statues or images depicting the Risen Christ, but we might be forgetting that our best image for the Easter Lord is the Paschal Candle. He is the light that drives away the darkness that prevents them from recognizing him.

The problem with the Risen Christ whom the disciples encountered on many other occasions was they could not take him home with them as evidence to say he was truly risen. He appeared and disappeared. I think it took a while before they realized he had not really disappeared. By the breaking of the bread, through the holy communion, he was not only entering them, he was in fact changing them, transforming them to become his very presence.

I think that is what Peter meant when he said, LOOK AT US! He was asking the paralytic to look at the ace of Jesus in their faces. That is why he said, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean…” Instead of saying, “If Jesus were here, he would lift you up and make you walk again.” Rather, he said “In his name, I command you to stand up and walk.” IN HIS NAME.

I remember another passage in Acts of the Apostles 19:15 when some people tried to expel a demon and the evil spirit said to them in reply, “Jesus I recognize, Paul I know, but who are you?”

St Paul says, to be a Christian is to say, I LIVE, NOT I, CHRIST LIVES IN ME. We are called, not just to proclaim Christ risen but to be the very face of the Risen Christ. Only his light can drive away the darkness around us.

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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