There they go, Mr. and Mrs. Cleopas.
Going in the wrong direction.
Away from Jerusalem… disappointed, confused, afraid.
Then they meet up with a stranger.
They walk along together, talking about the scriptures.
They share a meal.
And they come to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
Scholars say that this story of the travelers on the road to Emmaus
shows Luke’s storytelling ability at its best.
It started as a simple story that grew through the years
until Luke made it into a narrative
and enhanced it with scriptural echoes
of the long Jewish tradition of hospitality
where people encounter the divine
in sharing a meal with a stranger.
In its present form,
the story reflects the pattern of early Christian worship—
hearing the Scriptures proclaimed and sharing the meal.
And that’s still the pattern of our worship today.
That pattern has not changed.
The gospels tell us story after story of Jesus breaking bread—
on the plain, on the mountainside,
at the homes of friends, at the homes of sinners.
No one is turned away, not even Judas at the Last Supper.
Everybody is welcome.
Everybody is included.
That’s what we’re supposed to do at every Mass.
But that pattern has changed.
We have to wonder how our institutional church
got to the point of making all those rules
to exclude people from the table.
Sure, there have been some times throughout history
when it made sense to be careful,
those times when Christianity was being persecuted
and you could be jailed or killed for celebrating Mass.
But here in the United States, now, with us today?
Instead of walking along the way with people,
instead of inviting them to stop a while with us,
instead of sharing a meal and breaking bread with them,
we still have rules on the books
that say they’re not welcome at the table.
Some of them are rules about church practices.
Skip Mass last Sunday?
Didn’t go to communion during the Easter season?
Well, you can’t go now.
Haven’t been to confession in a year?
Take communion in a non-Catholic church?
Then you’re not allowed at the Catholic table.
And then there are the pelvic issues.
Divorced and remarried without an annulment?
Think that homosexuality is not an “intrinsic disorder?”
That abortion is okay to save the life of the mother?
Any one of those, according to the rules,
bars you from communion.
And there are bunches of other rules.
Thank God for Pope Francis,
who calls us to walk with people where they really are,
not where we think they should be.
Francis looks at these two travelers heading off to Emmaus
and says that
“We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night.
We need a church capable of meeting them on their way.
We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation.
We need a Church able to dialogue with those disciples who,
having left Jerusalem behind,
are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment,
disillusioned by a Christianity
now considered barren, fruitless soil,
incapable of generating meaning.”
The Pope encourages us live our faith in the real world.
He tells us to reach out in service without judging people.
Just like Jesus did, Pope Francis wants us to welcome everyone.
He reminds us that we are one human people the world over,
living in a common home.
The rules that keep people away from communion
don’t make sense any more,
so we don’t follow them here at Holy Spirit.
We live, as Fr. Ed Hays puts it,
“in unrelenting communion,
even if we are unaware of it,
with God and the Spirit of God.
Life is constant holy communion
because the world was created to be cosmic communion
between God and every creature and entity in the world.
This communion flows from life
as a seamless unity
of every person, creature, plant, animal, and star.”
The rule that Jesus shows us
is bigger than any church rule.
He did not throw anybody off the mountain.
He did not bar anyone from eating at the table with him.
We who walk the way with him,
we who have been created
in constant, unrelenting communion
with God and with all being
are always welcome at the table…
and so is everyone else.
Thanks be to God!
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006