Two Disciples and a Stranger:Third Sunday of Easter

Two Disciples and a Stranger:Third Sunday of Easter

Year A, The Third Sunday in Easter
April 23, 2023

Year A: Acts 2:14a, 36-41, 22-32; Psalms 116:1-3, 10-17; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

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In the Name of God who opens our eyes to see and know Jesus. Amen. 

Our Gospel recounts the story of two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. As they walked, they discussed the events that had transpired during the previous days – Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and reports of his resurrection. 

Another joined them. As they walked together, this man interpreted the Scriptures for them, revealing the truth of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. Still, it was not until they broke bread with him that their eyes were opened, and they recognized this other as the risen Christ. 

The message is perhaps easy to understand. The risen Christ is always with us, even when we don’t recognize his presence. When are we seeing Him in our lives? When are we ignoring Him in our lives? 

As I thought about this passage, I thought about the thread that runs through scripture – a mandate that we welcome the stranger. 

It wasn’t about politics in ancient near-Eastern Palestine. It was about survival, person-to-person and household-to-household, and in particular, the “stranger” and “foreigner” – those who aren’t like me, nor do I expect them to become like me. 

Think about the two disciples in this story. Their eyes would never have been opened had they not invited the stranger to stay with them, for it was evening. 

Their grief and confusion are profound, yet hospitality is so ingrained in their being that they offer sustenance and shelter to those they do not know. 

Let me repeat something I said just a moment ago – the risen Christ is always with us even when we do not recognize his presence. And we must remain open to encountering Jesus in unexpected ways and, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, be transformed by his teachings and the breaking of bread. 

Sadly, it seems we have become radically different in society in the 21st century. Knock on the door, and there’s a stranger? Shoot. A person accidentally gets in the wrong car. Shoot. Accompany your daughter into your neighbor’s yard to retrieve her ball that rolled there? Shoot. Pull into the wrong driveway. Shoot.1 

 So much for welcoming the stranger. 

As a society, we face many challenges and a lot of fear. So, the question becomes, how do we respond? 

I do not own a gun. I don’t object to others owning them. Yet with that ownership comes responsibility, as most know and understand. 

I don’t need to recite statistics to you about gun violence. 2  I have just given you real-life incidents from the last two weeks. What I will say is that every shooting – whether it is an individual incident, mass shooting, homicide, suicide, or accident represents a tragedy that has devastating consequences for families, communities, and our nation as a whole. 

The power of the resurrection of Christ is not only in the historical event that happened. The power of the resurrection is an ongoing reality that holds transformative power for us today. The resurrection signifies the triumph of love over hate, life over death, and hope over despair. It is a promise to us that, through Christ, we, too, can overcome the darkness in our lives and find redemption. 

To find that redemption, we must recognize the value of the lives around us. We have to be a witness to the resurrection by demonstrating love, compassion, and forgiveness in our daily interactions with others and by working toward justice and peace in our communities and the world at large. 

We do that not by demonizing others. We do it by being in sincere conversation. 

To be sure, we cannot continue to sacrifice the lives of innocent people. Instead, we must take decisive action to figure out who we want to be in this world—followers of Christ or not. 

There are many steps we can take to reduce harm. For example, we can strengthen background checks. We can ban civilian ownership of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines explicitly designed for military use. We can provide better mental health care. And we can invest in research that will help us better understand the root causes of gun violence and develop more effective strategies for violence prevention. 

What I’m talking about is not political but is, in fact, the gospel of Jesus Christ. It focuses on the light of the resurrection and the embrace of Christ’s love in our lives instead of fear. 

The good news is that Cleopas and the other disciple did not just give up even though they did not understand this visitor. Jesus kept walking when they reached Emmaus, but they persuaded him to stay with them and share supper. This is very important – they invited the stranger to be with them. 

The choice is always ours, whether or not to invite Jesus into our hearts and lives. Jesus is always there, offering himself to us. We are always free to turn our backs on Him or close our hearts to Him out of fear of what it might involve to invite Him into our lives. 

For Cleopas and the other disciple, they took the chance. And then, when they were at the table with him, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. In sharing a meal, they recognized Jesus, and he revealed His identity to them. Jesus didn’t give up on the disciples, and they didn’t give up on a stranger. 

We cannot give up either. We always have the opportunity to welcome the stranger into our midst. That welcome should always begin with an open heart. When someone knocks on our door, think of the welcome we want to extend to Jesus if he walks into our life. Will we end up shooting him? 

If the situation requires caution, remain calm and composed, but when we choose empathy and love over fear, we cultivate an environment where people are treated as beloved children of God. 

As we journey through life, we will sometimes find ourselves walking in the wrong direction, blinded by our doubts and fears. Yet, just like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we can have our eyes opened. We can experience the joy of transformation that comes from encountering and accepting the living Lord. When we do, may we proclaim the good news. Amen.