It is on the road to Emmaus that Jesus reminds his disciples that he is still with them on their journey, and in the same way he accompanied his friends he continues to accompany us and calls us to accompany one another.

To set the scene, we need to remember that the two disciples were in mourning. They had just experienced their friend and teacher be brutally murdered. This in and of itself was a tragedy. Now there were reports that the body is missing from the tomb. They didn’t know what to think. Have you ever had an idea in your mind about how things were going to turn out, and then what you were hoping and planning on didn’t work out? Or maybe you had an idea about a person or a group of people, and then something happened that made you question what you previously believed? This is the situation these two men are emerging from. All of the hopes and the ideas they had about who Jesus was and what he was going to do were seemingly cut short with his death on the cross, and now they didn’t know what to think or believe. They feel lost and confused. And it is while they are walking together, grieving and trying to make sense of recent events that we hear in the Gospel today that Jesus himself drew near, and walked with them.

Jesus chooses to accompany his disciples. Maybe your familiar with accompaniment, and maybe not. Accompaniment isn’t about fixing, or serving, or making better, or being right. Accompaniment is about walking with someone, joining them on their journey. Accompaniment is the gift of presence. Now I am a white Catholic female raised in the U.S. These intersecting identities told me growing up that I was in many ways both better and better off than those who were poor, those who were a different race than myself, and those who were from “third world countries.” I was encouraged to use my privilege to serve others, to give back and help those less fortunate than me, but it was always a model of assuming I was the only one with something to give, the only one with something of value to offer in the relationship.

I knew little about accompaniment until I left the context of my country and culture and traveled to one of these so called “third world countries” namely: El Salvador. There the emphasis wasn’t on a project or some particular work to be done, but on just really being with the people. I walked with them, listened to their stories, and learned from them, and that was the most important thing that I could have done. I gave them my presence and they gave me theirs. And in walking together and listening to their stories, the great horrors and great joys they had experienced, I could feel my own heart burning inside me and knew that this was sacred space and time.

This is the same work we are called to as a community of faith: to truly accompany one another, through our sorrows and celebrations. To really be present, to listen, and to know that we are the Body of Christ accompanying one another on the journey.

Jesus models in this story, that when we accompany our first responsibility is to be present and to listen. The first two sentences Jesus speaks, are questions: “What are you discussing?” and “What sort of things?” While Jesus already knows the answers to these questions, what he is doing is creating the space for the disciples to tell their story and share what they are feeling: their grief, disappointment, and confusion. It is only after first listening to the other, that Jesus then speaks his own truth, and interprets the Scriptures so that they can understand and see with new eyes the tragic events of the past days.

It is because they had first been accompanied and listened to, that they can then receive the words of Jesus as he breaks open Scripture for them in a new way. And they have a physical reaction to what is occurring. While they still can’t recognize Jesus for who he is, they can feel a movement within them that is reacting to the power, love, and truth of the message being received. Perhaps you can remember a time when you listened to a speech or maybe were visiting another church and were listening to the homily, where you just really didn’t have much of a reaction? Maybe you tuned out halfway through or left feeling like whatever was said didn’t really resonate with you? One reason I think we have such amazing homilies here at SCF is because we do the day in and day out work of accompanying one another. We can speak from a different place, and be heard in a different way, when there is a relationship of love, trust, and compassion that has already been established. And its not just in Saturday homilies, but in the everyday work of meetings, convocations, visiting the sick and home bound, that we have the opportunity and responsibility to accompany and share our good news with others.

It isn’t until the disciples reach Emmaus, and sit down at the end of their journey for a meal, that they finally realize that it is Christ himself who has been accompanying them on their journey. It is when they stop moving, and just sit down to share a meal that their eyes are opened and they recognize him. We can be a lot like that too, too distracted or rushed in our daily lives to recognize the divine presence in the ones we journey with, who accompany us and whom we accompany. But when we gather around this table together each week, when we can slow down and focus enough on what is going on in the present moment, we realize that we are not alone, that God is not dead but very much alive and at work in the world. As we recognize and celebrate Christ’s presence in the body and blood of the Eucharist we also recognize Christ’s presence in the body and blood of those gathered around us. Dwelling in the present moment, I can look around this sacred space we create together and feel my own heart burning with overwhelming love and gratitude because I know the joys and struggles of the ones who are gathered with me, and I can feel the spirit of God alive and at work within us.

So as we prepare to gather around this table tonight, to celebrate this Sacrament that Christ gave us to open our eyes to his presence in our world may we slow down enough to be aware of how our own hearts burn inside us, and may we continue to accompany and care for one another as the Body of Christ alive and at work in our world.

Sts. Clare & Francis
Third Sunday of Easter
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Acts 2:14, 22-33
1 Peter 1:17-21
Luke 24:13-35 (focus text)
Homily by Jennifer Reyes Lay

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