As I was going through the reading for this week’s liturgy, I was reminded of a book I read many years ago written by the late Scottish Jesuit Fr Gerard Hughes, named precisely “God of Surprises”. The author says that the book is written for 'bewildered, confused and disillusioned Christians' who are invited to live Jesus’ parable of the treasure hidden in a field. The owner of the field never expected to find that treasure. It sort of jumped upon him out of nowhere.
Today’s gospel starts with those two people whom we call the disciples of Emmaus telling the eleven apostles what had just happened to them: how they met Jesus on the road while they were running away from Jerusalem. They were two unhappy, angry, disillusioned, grumpy, confused people. They had put their hopes in this Jesus of Nazareth, and now he was dead. They felt cheated by him. On top of this, the community who had vowed allegiance had run away. Then as if out of nowhere, Jesus came to them, listened to their anguished stories, spoke to them using numerous parts of the scriptures, and shared their meal. It was there that they finally recognized who he was.
During this meeting between those two and the rest of the disciples Jesus comes, again unexpectedly, amongst them. Once more, they do not recognize him and instead of rejoicing they were terrified because they thought it was a ghost! Jesus reassured them, showed them his wounds from the crucifixion (remember the meeting with Thomas in last week’s gospel?) eats with them and leaves them with a beautiful message: “Thus it is written, that the Christ is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.”
Providentially this reading comes to us in a very appropriate time. It has been more than a year now that we have been living in the shadows of a pandemic. Like those disciples, we go through feelings of frustration, anger, loss of hope and the desire to question God’s presence in all of this. Moreover, while these past months have been hard for many of us, these feelings can come to any of us in any time during our lives. It could be because of the unexpected loss of a loved one, a moment of crisis in our relationships, something bad that happens, or even just without any explanation at all. In these moments Jesus reminds us that, while we are going through all this, we are not alone. Even though we might not readily recognize him, he journeys with us and gently helps us to live through those experiences, eventually coming out of them even better than before. That is the story of the resurrection. That is what happened to those disciples. That is what good news is all about.
Once we live through such an experience and acknowledge it, Jesus invites us to share it with others, to witness to what he has done for us in our lives. This we do mostly by the way we live our lives. Sometimes, we might need to use words too.
During this Easter season we might want to ask ourselves this question: Am I giving witness to the power of the resurrected Christ in my life?