Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sunday word, 06 Apr 2008

Easter Sunday3 (06 Apr 2008) Ac 2. 14,22-33; Ps 16; 1Pt 1.17-21; Lk 24. 13-35
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

I visited Japan when a friend completed two years of studying its language. That year happened to be my 10th reunion from graduate school. The Divinity School at Yale University has annual convocations. It combines them with class reunions. Before entering the Society of Jesus, I regularly attended the convocations. Many classmates figured I’d surely be at our 10th reunion.

I would have liked to have attended because some classmates, who didn’t make the convocations regularly, planned to attend our 10th reunion. However, I could not pass up visiting Japan with a friend, who had lived there two years. Plus, I enjoyed another dividend. A Japanese classmate could not attend our reunion because of time and family obligations. Atsuko and I decided to meet and have a 10th reunion no one else could enjoy.

My classmate and I arranged to meet in Kyoto, a short train ride distant from her home. I never met her husband, who studied architecture while Atsuko and I slogged our way through Hebrew class. Their first child was born shortly before we graduated. We arranged meeting at escalators spewing passengers from underground.

As we waited for their train to arrive, I began to get nervous, and I intensified my anxiety by not sharing it with my friend. It had been 10 years, and I was used to seeing Atsuko with her hair worn a certain way and as one Japanese among Caucasians and African-Americans. It had been 10 years. Would I recognize Atsuko; and would I recognize her in a sea of Japanese train commuters?

My friend and I escaped the August heat and had a cold drink. Yet, my anxiety made my palms moist. Minutes before the train was to arrive we planted ourselves near the escalators that would bring Atsuko up from the station into daylight. As I tried to keep a relaxed appearance, my friend gently asked, “Do you think you’ll recognize her?”

In a sea of faces I caught one, then another, and another, who I wanted to be Atsuko. All were not wearing their hair as I had fixed in my mind’s eye. Finally, a lost-looking woman reached the top step of an escalator. When her face met mine she smiled. Her smile identified her as Atsuko, who was wearing her hair in a fashion I never imagined.

Our gospel is a recognition story. It was a recognition story of the risen Jesus, one of several which fill the gospels. Luke’s presentation of it details names of people, places, distances; it relates emotions of anxious, sad lows and heartwarming, joyful highs.

It helps us appreciate that risen Jesus lived in an altogether new way: a way that allowed Jesus to appear as a stranger walking and talking with people; and that ritual gestures--here, breaking bread in a community meal--opened eyes to recognize him.

While we focus on two disciples making their way from Jerusalem to nearby Emmaus, this disarming narrative involves a larger cast: the two disciples; women who told them of events that happened in the city; after the disciples had their own experience of risen Jesus, they journeyed to tell the apostles, who told the two disciples of another appearance and recognizing risen Jesus.

The telling and retelling of the resurrection of Jesus reinterprets that event at the core of our faith-life. Its retelling continues to shape us and others as people who recognize Jesus and welcome his presence in surprising ways. It was not until I narrated meeting my classmate in Japan that I realized how anxious I grew that day. With each retelling I continue to savor that inexpressible joy our two-person, 10th year reunion induced in us.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week begin by letting go of your anxieties in the presence of the Trinity. When you are calm ask the two disciples journeying to Emmaus to present you to our risen Jesus. Converse with him, asking for what you need, including feeling deeper joy at being called to love Jesus with greater affection. Ask Jesus to open your eyes to live with greater confidence that Jesus is always with you. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, in order to live daily as a forgiven and more forgiving Christian.
Wiki-images of Egorov and Caravaggio are in the public domain.

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