Gospel – Luke 24:13-25

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

Reflection on the Gospel

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

I write in the second week of my state’s “Safer at Home” policy; the original endpoint of the policy is April 25. I wonder if Wisconsinites will be one day free of isolation on the Third Sunday of Easter. I also write this on the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the First Reading, Acts of the Apostles 2: 14, 22-33, Peter delivers a long speech about the life, death, and significance of Jesus. Jesus, the rabbi and prophet who bore the trial and death of a common criminal, is publicly memorialized a period of days after his life. In a similar way, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was threatened by thugs countless times, imprisoned, and finally assassinated, had his detractors while he taught, organized, and preached for ten years in the mid 20th century, but today, we acknowledge him as one of the most prophetic voices in the history of the United States (and if you want to argue that distinction, reread Pope Francis’
speech to the U.S. Congress and the rest of the world on September 24th, 2015).

Justice-speaking prophets are often opposed during their lives. It behooves all of us to remember the lives and actions of such spokespersons after they die. Though humans might have behaved inappropriately by persecuting and even killing such leaders, our task remains to continue the study and celebration of such prophets ’lives, just as King’s family and his successors in the Civil Rights movement continued to carry his mantle after he died. Just as Peter and the first disciples did not allow the legacy of Jesus to die, it is our responsibility to advance the legacy of 20th and 21st-century prophets of justice, such as King, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, and Saint Oscar Romero, in order to advance justice and peace for decades beyond their lives.

Maybe we are doing our small part at St. Norbert Abbey to advance the legacy of such prophets years beyond their deaths. For today, April 4, our morning prayer presider read not only of the anniversary of the April 4, 1922 death of Norbertine Br. Frederick Kildonk, but also reminded us of King’s own passing on this day in 1968. Though I sometimes feel that my own religious community is not adequately advancing the legacy of justice seeking prophets during and after their lives, I laud the Norbertine who had the foresight to add the reference to King in our own Norbertine necrology.

My final word for this Sunday, also derived from the words and actions of Peter in the First Reading. Followers of justice are not into “gotcha-ism.” Though Peter was addressing successors of a group who played a direct or indirect role in the trial and death of Jesus, his teacher/master/friend, Peter did not lay blame on them or their predecessors. Peter has moved beyond vengeance to a state of acceptance and love of others; he even calls them “brothers.” Peter models a justice that moves beyond past hurts and differences and toward the attainment of the common good and kingdom of God for all of us.Peter models a justice that moves beyond past hurts and differences and toward the attainment of the common good and kingdom of God for all of us.

Steve is a Norbertine brother from De Pere, Wisconsin. He blogs at stevenherro.wordpress.com, is in training to be a spiritual director, and serves as an assistant archivist and executive assistant for the Diocese of Green Bay and Bay Area Community Council, respectively.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.