An invitation to love11 Apr 2018
Sunday, 15 April 2018: Third Sunday of Easter – Year B
Gospel: Luke 24:35-48.
Luke’s story of the day of Jesus’ resurrection, the first day of the week, is charged with experiences and energies. He stretches this single day from early dawn to the night.
How do I imagine this night time episode? I can enter this scene, as one of the characters or just as I am.
Cleopas and his unnamed friend have made their way back to Jerusalem from Emmaus, retracing their steps to walk the seven-mile journey for a second time. Their extraordinary experience with Jesus compels them to return that same hour to Jerusalem and their community of friends and disciples.
So, Cleopas and his friend arrive unexpectedly and find the eleven and their companions gathered together. How would they have entered the room? What is the atmosphere like? How does the conversation unfold? What do I see and hear?
Jesus himself stood among them. Intriguing; they are speaking of Jesus and there he is among them. How do I imagine him – his presence, his voice, speaking as he does, speaking even to me?
I register the alarm and fright of the disciples on seeing Jesus. They are in shock and dumbfounded, yet their joy breaks out. What is my reaction?
You are witnesses of these things. Have I ever felt such terror, astonishment and joy like this myself? Have I ever experienced improbable life and love through an experience of hardship or suffering?
Jesus so much wants the companions to understand and trust their experience. His first words are words of peace. He is persistent, urging them to look and touch him, and even watch him eat. He wants them to trust themselves as much as him; touch me and see for yourselves. It is an intimate invitation.
Have you anything here to eat? Jesus seeks a relationship of mutual love. The risen Christ is at once the source of our life and yet asks us for food, and for our touch and attention. He affirms us as witnesses (v48) yet leaves us free to respond to his invitation.
Here, Easter joy has a delicate quality. There is a baffling sense of God who invites us into a bigger reality, beyond all we can imagine or dare to hope, and yet waits for our response. The vulnerability and sensitivity of God continues beyond the Cross into these resurrection appearances. Jesus speaks as a friend. He is passionate and present yet invites and waits. There is an echo of Gabriel’s annunciation and that suspended moment as the invitation is made to Mary and she considers it.
Ignatius Loyola discovered such Easter joy in his own life. He had great regard for conversation, even a single conversation between people, sharing our experience, whether friends or strangers, ‘talking of the things of God’. He knew Jesus as an intimate friend and believed we are all called into this disarming, reverent and transforming relationship and to give ourselves, in freedom, to love and serve God in the world, in everything. For Ignatius, God, the Trinity, actively seeks us out, and even labours for us in all things. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus bear this out.
Now I see
wherever life bears those wounds,
the breath, the wind, of love is there.
It hovers like white fire over all creation,
for light and life and love are one.
My road runs forever alongside this river,
which now I see was not so before.
Excerpt from ‘Cardoner’, from Ignatius the Pilgrim – Poems for Prayer, by Andrew Bullen SJ. Jesuit Publications, 1992
Ignatius’ spiritual exercises, with their process of individual prayer, reflection, accompaniment and sharing in spiritual conversation, are a dynamic means to discover and respond to this relentless, passionate and extraordinary invitation from a God who is ridiculously, extravagantly generous.
There are many flexible ways to receive the exercises, whether by praying a single exercise and sharing with a friend or small group in conversation, or engaging in a longer process in everyday life or on retreat, accompanied by a guide companion.
The First Spiritual Exercises, given on the road by Ignatius as a layman and later with the early Jesuits, are for anyone of good will and intended to help a person to receive the risen Jesus’ gift of peace, offered in this Gospel. You may wish to try an exercise and see for yourself.
I remember the gifts I have received. A guided spiritual exercise from the retreat, ‘Inner Peace in Divine Love’.