Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Walk to Emmaus and walking of a beggar: Wednesday of the Octave of Easter

            I love the rich readings during the Easter Octave.
            In the story of the walk to Emmaus, we can observe the Mass in primitive form.  Jesus first explained the Scriptures to Cleopas and his companion, and when they sat at table Jesus, “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.”  While Jesus may have physically vanished, he could still be seen with the eyes of faith in his gift of the Eucharist.
            On Monday some of you shared that this Gospel account used to be read on Easter Monday.  Apparently this was known as “Emmaus Day” and it was tradition to take a walk with Jesus.  Well today I won’t be walking seven miles but running three in the Reif Run with our students.  I hope to see some of you on the course!
            The first reading reminds me of a common question I have discussed with students, Nathan and Jess in Campus Ministry and friends.  The situation is when a homeless person asks for money as you pass them on the street—what should you do?
            Some would say, “Oh, he’ll just spend it on booze—why give him anything?” and simply pass by.  Assuming prudence dictates a safe situation, I would think it is okay to give a buck or so.  After all, your choice is to help an individual in need.  He needs to make a choice to use the gift wisely, but that is out of your control.
            You may be like me—I rarely carry cash when I am out and about.  Or you may decide it is not prudent to give a stranger money at that time.  Yet you can give them something.  Here we see the wisdom of Peter’s response to the beggar who was asking for money: “But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’  He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.  Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.’”
            Peter and John looked intently at this beggar.  In fact, they didn’t see a beggar at all but a brother of Christ.  They didn’t give him money, but through Christ they gave him physical healing.  Now I dare you to try this out in your next encounter with someone living in poverty.  But even greater than physical healing, this man received love as a person.  We can give such love even if a gift of money or healing doesn’t happen through a smile, wave, “Hello,” or simply human acknowledgement.
            On day four of Easter we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread at Mass.  And through this recognition may we strive to serve God and neighbor—especially the poor—well.

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