April 30, 2017
Third Sunday of Easter
by Leif Kehrwald
Listen to the recording . . . or read the text below.
On a warm fall Saturday afternoon, some time ago, when I was a senior in high school, I met a girl named Robin. She was a senior at a neighboring high school. She and her friends were hanging out with me and my buddies. She was pretty. She was cool, and I wanted to be her friend. At the end of that day she invited me and my buddies to her youth group. We all said yes. So she said she would give us all a ride on Sunday night. When Sunday night came around, I was the only one waiting for her. No problem. I liked Robin.
Her youth group was held at someone’s house, where the living room had been cleared out of all the furniture and every bit of the floor space was taken up with kids sitting on the floor, laughing, talking, and enjoying one another. Robin introduced me to others. I made friends instantly . . . a bit like my first encounter here at St Charles through the Backyard Retreat last summer.
At that youth meeting, we sang songs, engaged in goofy skits, and listened to a powerful message by the leader. His name was Jim Green. I still remember. I was hooked. I became a regular. Over the following weeks, at this youth group where people were genuine, fun (and food) was plentiful, and God was clearly present, I had an encounter that shaped my future.
I had always been a good Catholic, was an altar server as a boy, even enjoyed daily mass. But it was in my senior year of high school, through Robin’s youth group, that I discovered my relationship with God. From there, I went on to Gonzaga University, majored in Religious Studies, and have been engaged in some form of apostolic ministry my entire adult life.
Thank you Robin and Jim Green . . . wherever you are!
Surely the best thing Cleopas and his companion ever did was to invite Jesus to "stay with" them, for it was in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
You don't recognize Jesus because you are smart, or have a keen eye for the true, the beautiful, and the good. You recognize him in authentic, intimate encounters with others, often over a meal. Something about eating together opens our hearts and prompts transformation.
It’s a familiar, but always powerful drama—the story of encounter and transformation. The Bible, as well as our Catholic Christian tradition, is filled with compelling testimonies of people who, somehow with God’s help, become strikingly different.
The Scriptures give us a language to describe the encounter with God’s grace: people are “born again,” regain “sight,” acquire a “new mind,” and have their hearts softened.
The result of these encounters: people love more generously. They love in ways they have not loved before. Part of what is different is they often become invested in the lives of others they had previously ignored, avoided, or even hated.
Saint Paul, Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Cesar Chavez, Simone Weil, Nicolas Black Elk, Dom Helder Camara, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Jones, Pope Francis and thousands more found themselves drawn into relationship with the “other” – the one we’ve been taught to ignore, or be suspicious of, the one who is less valuable, less worthy.
From the beginning, God has taken the initiative to reveal God’s self to Abraham and Isaac, Moses, the Prophets. And through Jesus to the Jews (and Romans), to Paul, Timothy, and all the fledgling Christian communities of the region.
We have their stories. And when we gather, and break bread together, we recount those stories, and when we do those things well, our hearts too, burn within us.
Why? Because God continues to reveal God’s self to us today. We too, are on the road to Emmaus.
Reflect on Your Encounter
How does this happen? While we can’t put God in a box, and we can’t package grace, we can recognize certain patterns that have emerged down through the centuries.
God takes the initiative. In one way or another, God breaks into our lives.
We respond . . . or not.
The encounter is almost always a bit awkward, if not utterly unsettling. Our hardness of heart is gently exposed and we are invited to love bigger.
Fortunately, down through the ages, our tradition has developed a set of spiritual tools and guides to help us interpret these experiences: the Scriptures, sacraments, testimonies of holy people, writings of the mystics, Catholic social teaching – all give us direction.
And the authentic transformative encounter is always followed by a constant reminder that we must connect with those who struggle.
Jesus himself interacted deliberately with the “other,” engaging with lepers, prostitutes, enemy soldiers, despised foreigners, and unsavory outcasts.
So, my request of you today is simple, yet potentially difficult: I ask you to bring to mind, and reflect upon, a transformative encounter of your own.
Might have been decades ago . . . Might have been last week. Jot down your reflections. Or, draw a picture of the encounter.
And if you really want to bring it full circle, take the risk to share your reflection with someone. Is there someone who needs to hear about your encounter . . . in order for their encounter to take shape?
As you begin your reflection, let’s revisit our Gospel story through this video . . .