A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS

April 3, 2018

CLERGY COME TOGETHER FOR AN AFTER-EASTER EXPERIENCE OF BROTHERHOOD AND SHARING

It is on the second day after Easter that we hear the Gospel account of the two disciples that go on the road from Jerusalem. They are walking in the direction of the town of Emmaus when they encounter a man. They don't stop, the man joins them and they keep on walking. The disciples share about the anxiety and uncertainty that they are experiencing, and the man, surprisingly, shows himself to be quite informed not only about what just happened during the last few days, but also about Jesus and why Jesus did the things that He did. The disciples listened attentively as the man explained why Jesus is the Christ and why He had to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of all. It gets very late as they walk and as they arrive at an inn to spend the night, they first decide to have a meal together. When they are at table, the man took bread into His holy, most pure and immaculate hands, gave thanks, blessed, sanctified and broke it and gave it to the disciples... It was then that they recognized Him. It was Christ Jesus. Not dead and in the tomb! But alive and well and real. Not a spirit, as He demonstrated by the breaking of bread. [This moment is uniquely captured by Leo Mol in his Emmaus stained glass window at Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Winnipeg] The disciples rather than continuing on their journey the next day to Emmaus .... getting away from the confusion and troubles and danger that remained in Jerusalem... they did not wait. They left that very night back to Jerusalem. Back to their brothers. Back to the challenges of the mission that Jesus entrusted to them. They were refreshed and renewed and they wanted to share their joy and insights and discoveries with their brothers and sisters.

It was often the practice in seminaries "back in the day", ( and probably the custom at monasteries and with other communities) that a couple of days after Easter; after all the intense services of Holy Week and Pascha - the brothers would have an "Emmaus". It was a time to get away with a couple other members of the community. To travel. To talk about life and the mystery of salvation and ... just to relax. At the Pontifical Ukrainian Seminary in Rome, the good Sisters would prepare a bag-lunch for everyone, and the Rector would give a sufficient amount of money for a train-ride or for a second meal. Everyone would then go out fir the whole day. Not unlike the disciples in the Gospel, they would form small groups, perhaps arrange to meet other groups later in the day, and then they would just take to the roads, head for the train station or bus terminal and get out to that "little town" outside the great city. There would be discussions, talk and fellowship that was thoroughly enjoyed by all. It was a refreshing experience and, again, not unlike those disciples in the Gospel, they would return ready to get on with the challenges and joys of their vocation...

A number of Archeparchial clergy, from the city of Winnipeg, decided to make a mini "Emmaus". They all had to travel, but they didn't physically travel that far... They made their way to the St. Vital movie theatre where they watched the new movie about the early Church. The movie, "Paul, Apostle of Christ" takes the viewer into the dark times of the persecuted Christian community in Rome in the year 67 AD. Emperor Nero has blamed the followers of Christ for the burning of half the city (which he actually did himself), and he is having them killed in the Colosseum and in the streets. Paul is arrested and tossed into prison, sentenced to be executed when Nero decides on the most politically adventagioad time. The Evangelist Luke, comes to Rome to meet him and to ask Paul to tell his story that it will serve as an inspiration to future generations of Christians. Thus we have the New Testament book of the "Acts of the Apostles".

After watching the movie, the clergy made their way to a local restaurant to share a meal and talk about the film and, yes, to share a bit about their pastoral experiences in their own parishes. Not all the priests that came were able to stay, but a group did. The fellowship was wonderful. Even there, one could say that Christ was present. No, there was no "breaking of bread" (more like breaking open 'fortune cookies'), but all recognized that it was a group of brothers around the table.... men that are bound by their dedication to the mission of the Risen Christ. Men that do what they do because of their love for the Lord and their Love for God's people. Everyone returned "to the city", to their parish communities, ready to share the joy and faith in their hearts.

PS If you have a chance to see the movie, do so! It would be good to read the acts before going. And you will probably want to google a few facts after you get home after seeing the film. However, it will make you think. By its sometimes gritty presentation of the situation at that time, it will make you better appreciate the mission of the Church. You may even conclude that perhaps things are not as different in our day as they were then... the challenges are always present... the Mission always remains the same!

Христос Воскрес!


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