The Stranger

The Stranger

Third Sunday of Easter. Fr Duncan Campbell invites us to imagine ourselves as the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Gospels come to life as we imagine ourselves taking part in them. In this Gospel, with the disciples walking on the road, we might picture ourselves represented, on our life’s journey.

It might even help, to think that they were a married couple. One, ‘Cleopas’, is named, and the other might be the ‘Mary of Cleopas’ mentioned as standing by the cross with Mary his mother. These followers of Jesus had seen him dead and buried, so vividly that they just couldn’t see him with them alive. He was a stranger they met.

We have seen Jesus dead, on our many crucifixes. We have to realise that, just like them, we may be unable to see him alive.

They have a story to tell, of their honest loss of their hopes in him. Is it our story? Are we living with lost hopes? Until, prompted by this gospel, we waken up and realise it?

Our lives may be crowded with duties and customs and routines; our minds, full of disappointments; our consciences, depressed, with sins. There seems little room for hope in all this. What can we do?

Step number one on our way is to realise that there is something we can do. Step number two is to realise that is something we must do. Steps number three, and following, will be to listen carefully to what this stranger has to say.

He is angry with us. He quotes ‘Writings’ which he says we don’t understand. Of course writings fill our bookshops and libraries. Written as songs, they fill our airwaves; as ‘scripts’, they provide plays, films, and 24-hour, multi-channel, television. What the stranger is talking about are holy, sacred, writings: the scriptures.

They are crowded out now by all this other writing; but we know them. They have a sanctified place. There is something special, ancient, uncanny, ‘unearthly’, about them. We don’t, many of us, know what to think of them. We are reproached by the stranger, for having these ‘Scriptures’ without understanding them. We don’t know what books of Scriptures they had, at that time; they might not have been those we now have; but among them were certainly strange prophesies of sorrow, and suffering, and faithfulness rewarded.

Some of these we have, and use. The stranger is able to show in them, a meaning; a script; a plan; God’s will. The Messiah, the special one, had to blaze a trail, for all of us, through sorrow to glory.

We may find, in honesty, that we just don’t understand this. We have to ask, how can glory be found in suffering? He had associated suffering with love: ‘greater love no-one can have than to give up life for others’. We might manage to understand this, If we practise it ourselves. In the daily opportunities we have, to give up even small things, to help others, we can show sometimes great love.

But glory? It was the strange theme in the Prophecies. In a ‘victory’ of trust and hope and love, undaunted by the worst of evils, God is loved. This is God’s glory. We can understand these evils now, as necessary, for this glory to show.

In our lives we all have great suffering; the worst, being our serious sins. What can seem harder to bear are our daily disappointments, petty sins. It would certainly be a victory, if we can understand and accept all these, astonishingly, as God’s will; find, in the ‘glow of reality’, the ‘glory’ of God. And find ‘our hearts burning on the way,’ with excitement at this discovery.

The Gospel goes on to tell of the next great step they took. They invited the stranger into their home. We can have him as a guest in our homes. We learn this first by having him as our host, going to church, as his guests. There we even have the bread broken for us, the same bread, they said, he left, as he disappeared. We don’t simply look behind the bread for him, we take and eat the bread, to take him home with us, and live with him there.

The stranger who is no stranger, but, strangely, our host, and our guest.

Readings: Acts 2:14,22-28|1 Peter 1:17-21|Luke 24:13-35

fr Duncan Campbell is a member of St Albert's Priory, Edinburgh, and is currently resident at St Mary's home, Stone.