“Dead Man Walking and Talking”

Image: The Road to Emmaus, by Daniel Bonnell

In this past Sunday’s readings, we leapt forward to the new community that the Spirit of God makes possible (Acts 2):

They devoted themselves
to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life,
to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone,
and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
All who believed were together and had all things in common;
they would sell their property and possessions
and divide them among all according to each one’s need.

In this Sunday’s readings, we are confronted with the powerful preaching of Peter who reminds us that we did in fact kill Jesus but that God raised him from the dead! Then, in what would be a shocking transition if we weren’t so used to the story, the Gospel has that very risen dead man walking alongside disciples on the Road to Emmaus and talking to them about the Scriptures!

Towards the end of the readings we come to learn a bit about their experience with the risen Lord: “Were not our heats burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” Yet it seems that this “heartburn” was not enough for them to recognize the one in whose presence they found themselves. No, it was when Jesus “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them” that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”

The Incarnate Word present to us in the Holy Eucharist brings sight to our blindness and fulfills our hunger for justice. Yet we know that as soon as they recognized him “he vanished from their sight.” This dead man walking and talking in our midst is free from death, free from resentment, free from the powers and principalities of this world and makes us his Body. The Eucharist is not an object but rather a Subject, Jesus Christ in our midst making us the Church.

So, in this Easter season, when we begin to think we have mastered or grasped or captured Jesus, when we think ourselves keepers or guardians of a static faith rather than those who are undergoing the work of God in our midst, when we lose sight of the fellowship, the community of persons, the sharing in the future of humanity that has all things in common, in those moments we are brought back into the empowering and disrupting love of Jesus the Christ.

Has Jesus vanished from sight because we have objectified him and thought we had him under control? Or is Jesus present and making us his presence for others? Those with eyes to see caught a glimpse of this presence in Ledell Lee and those who accompanied him as he was killed tragically by the state of Arkansas as he declined a last meal and opted instead to receive communion. The matter-of-factness and concreteness of the resurrection appearances together with the concreteness of the life of the community we see in the Acts of the Apostles challenge us to be the kind of people committed to the life, justice, and peace of God that is only possible through being brought into God’s life through his Son Jesus. May we bear witness to this Good News and make common cause with others committed to the common good.

 

Peace,

Greg Walgenbach

Director, Office of Life, Justice & Peace