3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A | April 23, 2023
See today’s readings here. Video recordings of the Sunday evening Mass, where Fr. Brian regularly preaches, are available on Facebook at Delaware Koinonia. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found here: Salesian Sermons
Additional homilies from this day in the liturgical season: Easter 3A – 2014, 2020
Ralph Yarl, a 16 year old, was shot when he knocked on the wrong door looking for his twin siblings
Kaylin Gillis, a 20 year old, was killed when the car she was in pulled into the wrong driveway, and the occupant of the house opened fire.
Payton Washington, 18 and Heather Ross, 21 were shot when they accidentally tried to open the door of the wrong car in a parking lot. In their cheerleading uniforms.
Six year old Kinsley White was shot when her basketball rolled into a neighbor’s yard and she and her father went to retrieve it.
All within the span of one week.
And I have to ask.
What possibly could each of these shooters have seen when they opened fire?
What level of fear and anger had consumed them that they saw threat, when it was simply a child standing before them. A young adult who had made an honest mistake.
How could they not see who was before them? How could they not register that this human being they were about to start shooting at was a child of God, equally beloved and cherished?
Has it become so easy for us to reduce someone to stranger, other, threat that we shoot first and ask questions later after the damage has already been done
It is incredible the way fear, anger, and grief can distort our vision. Cloud our sight. Prevent us from seeing what is right in front of us. Who is right in front of us.
Is that not the truth contained in this famous gospel about the Road to Emmaus.
Two disciples so consumed by fear, grief, exhaustion and confusion that they could not recognize the one they had followed through the hills and valleys of Galilee.
Only after significant time, conversation, and an eventual meal could the two disciples actually see who had been there all along. They had to build a relationship with this stranger before they could discover that he was the Christ they had been grieving.
And in their journey, I believe we have our own model of discipleship today. A model desperately needed.
For my friends, we live in a nation and world pulsing with fear.
And with each passing year, we seem to retreat deeper and deeper into the fortresses of our own creation.
Building a careful social media cocoon where we only hear the voices of those we agree with. Consuming media that aligns with our own perception of the world, even when that media is distorting our reality. Filling us with fear of the other who always lurks right outside our door.
Carefully controlling who we let into our inner circle. Struggling to trust, to be vulnerable with any but our chosen few.
And from this fear, we so often fail to see Christ in the faces of all those we have labeled stranger. All the others we refuse to enter into relationship with because of fear of what we may encounter in that journey.
It is much safer to stay in our fortress than to risk Christ breaking down our walls and letting the world into our sacred space. It is easier to shoot our proverbial and actual bullets into the nameless faces that surround us than risk sharing the meal that would transform us both.
But this Gospel is a blunt reminder that Christ has no intention of staying confined to the boxes we attempt to place him in. Nor has he any interest in opening fire in a desperate attempt to protect or defend his hardwon turf.
He refuses to remain solely with the people we like, we agree with, we care about.
He refuses to be frightened by the unknown that stands before him. Telling Peter to put down that sword in the face of nameless violence.
No, on the contrary, Christ chooses to enter into relationship with all who seek with an open heart.
All who grieve and seek comfort. All who are afraid and seeking consolation. All who are angry and seeking justice. All who are lost and seeking their home.
And in so doing, he commands that we do the same. Enter into relationship with one another. In imitation of him.
Not as wary strangers or hostile others.
But as sisters and brothers to one another.
Reflections of the divine image. Faces that shine with the splendor of God’s grace.
My friends, we may live in a nation consumed by fear. But we also already live in the kingdom not of this world.
A kingdom defined by justice and peace, reconciliation and healing, wholeness, holiness, and grace.
A kingdom where all find welcome. All are cherished. All belong.
Wearing every color skin, praying to every name of God.
Loving whom they wish, identifying as they choose.
Working in every kind of field, living every kind of life.
Carrying every size of cross, dreaming every possible dream.
So which will we choose to live in this day? Who will we choose to encounter this day?
The stranger or the Christ?
Open our eyes, Lord. Help us to see your face.
May God be Praised.
IMAGE ATTRIBUTION: JESUS MAFA. Jesus appears at Emmaus, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48275 [retrieved April 24, 2023]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact).