Third Sunday After New Sunday
St. Luke 24:13-35
This week�s Gospel passage is a familiar portion taken from St. Luke 24:13-35 � the journey to Emmaus. St. Luke�s account states the story occurred on the evening of the day of Christ�s Resurrection. Two of Christ�s disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed companion, are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, an ancient town approximately seven miles from Jerusalem and discussing the events of the past few days. A stranger joins the journey and asks them what they were discussing. It was really Christ, but "their eyes were kept from recognizing him." Christ rebukes them for their unbelief and reminds them of the prophecies about the Messiah. On reaching Emmaus, they ask Jesus to join them for the evening meal. When he breaks the bread, "their eyes were opened" and they recognize him as the resurrected Jesus. Jesus immediately vanishes. Cleopas and his friend then hasten back to Jerusalem to carry the news to the other disciples
I would like to meditate upon the following two points this week.
1. Christ is always with us on our journey � whether we realize it or not.
One of my favorite wall hangings contains the following thought, �Christ is the Head of this house; the Unseen Guest at every meal; the Silent Listener to every conversation.� This helps me to remember that even though I may be the only one in a room, I am never truly alone. I am always accompanied by my Lord and Savior, who sees what I am doing, hears my conversations, knows my thoughts, and observes my �Christian living.�
As the two disciples were walking, they did not realize Christ was with them. Even through the conversation, they did not fully realize. But, when they sat for supper, as Christ broke the bread, their eyes were opened and they realized Who was with them. Similarly, when we receive Holy Qurbana, Christ reveals Himself to us and reaffirms His love for us.
Knowing that Christ is always with us and among us, do we recognize His presence in our life? Does His presence affect our thoughts, words, and deeds? Does His presence make us more loving, forgiving, compassionate, and humble? Does His presence help us to be better witnesses of His Resurrection and love for mankind?
2. Our faith should be improving and increasing to lead us to God.
One activity young children routinely do in school involves connecting a series of dots that eventually creates an image. All of the dots constitute a building block of the image. But, unless one connects the dots completely, one fails to display the image in its entirety, or see the big picture.
In this passage, as the men are walking and discussing, they know the events of the day, but fail to connect the dots. Christ then connects the dots for them. Spiritually, we also fail to connect the dots in our lives. We know the Bible, Holy Tradition, and faith; we know what Christ expects; and we see the plight of the poor and needy. But, many times, we fail to connect the dots and grow in our faith, and fail to even see Christ�s presence in our life. As St. Paul states in Heb 11:6, �without faith it is impossible to please Him.�
The Fathers teach that spirituality is based on a three-tiered approach: purification, illumination, and divinization. The first step in achieving spiritual perfection and holiness is purification � we have to be purified and cleansed from our sinful tendencies through repentance. We participate in the Sacraments of the Church for our healing and spiritual growth. We realize our need to have more self-control and engage in fasting to aid the development of greater control over the passions. We gain self-control through Christ�s spiritual strengthening and grace. Eventually, we enter into a state of dispassion where the passions no longer have any control over us. Our mind becomes quiet and free to pursue the contemplation of God. The soul is now in command to direct our will and we begin to live the life of virtue and love.
Once we reach this milestone, we begin the next stage of illumination. Once the mind and soul are still and at rest, the gift of divine light is given. The hidden truths of Scripture are not revealed to everyone, since illumination comes through the special divine gift of revelation. This is why we can read a passage over the course of many years and gain some new insight each time. The Holy Spirit opens our minds so that we can learn these new truths and grow in grace. But, this only happens when we are purified. Are we ready to be purified? Are we willing to give up the worldly pleasures of this world? Are we willing to truly be worthy of the name �Christian�?
May the Holy Spirit purify us and allow us to be illumined so we can experience a richer life in God. May our Lord continue to guide, direct, and sustain us in this world and prepare us for life in the Heavenly Kingdom.
Fr. George C. Mathew [Benny], B.S., M.S., M.Div.
Vicar, St. Mary's Indian Orthodox Church of Northern Virginia