Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter
The Reason for Our Name

Readings: Acts 3:1-10; Psalm 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9; Luke 24:13-35

Today’s readings remind me of a scene from a movie that’s still playing in town. Entitled The Namesake, it’s based on a best-selling novel of the same name, written by the Pulitzer prize winning Bengali writer Jhumpa Lahiri. In the story, a man names his son Gogol, after an obscure Russian writer. But, as the boy grows up, he becomes embarrassed and ashamed of his name, not just because people make fun of it, but also because he learns that his namesake was a very strange and eccentric person whose talent was only recognized after his death. So he decides to change his name. Then one day, his father tells him why he was given that strange name. Many years ago, before Gogol was born, the father had been the sole survivor in a tragic train accident. And, while on that train, the father had been reading a book written by his namesake. In fact, he was still clutching pages from the book when he was found by his rescuers. After hearing his father’s explanation, Gogol is even more confused, and asks him: Is this what I remind you of? A painfully tragic train wreck? To which his father smiles and replies: No, you remind me that everything after that accident has been a gift.

Isn’t Jesus doing something similar in the well-known gospel story that we just heard today. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus are not just leaving Jerusalem. They’re really running away from all that has happened there. They’re running away from the pain and disappointment, the shame and the embarrassment of the Cross of Christ. We have only to replace the word Gogol with the word Cross, to see that, like the boy in the movie, the two disciples are really running away from their past. They are trying to change their name. But the risen Christ helps them to understand the significance of all that has happened. He shows them that it was ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory. He helps to transform for them a painfully tragic memory, into a reason to rejoice. He helps them to see how, even through the shame and the disappointment, God has been blessing them with the gift of salvation. And like the crippled man in the first reading, these two disciples are healed. They are freed from their depression. They are able once again to rejoice in the Lord. They are given the ability to run back to Jerusalem and to praise God for all that has happened to them.

Isn’t this the wondrous grace that is being offered to us as well? Not just at Easter, but every time we come together to celebrate the Eucharist, every time we gather to Break the Word and the Bread, we are being offered the grace to see new meaning in the train wrecks of our lives. We are being empowered by the Lord to return to our own personal Jerusalems and to rejoice in the Lord calling us by name. For truly, after the Lord’s dying and rising, everything is gift.
How is the Crucified and Risen Lord convincing us of this today?

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. Just awesome, the Gogol story.

    Sometimes we fail to recognise the presence of Jesus in the train wrecks of our lives because we don't recognize him in the people around us, or because we don't understand what he's doing in our trials. What seems like the wrong way to solve a problem actually is the cornerstone of God's plan. What seems like a reason to doubt God's love turns out to be the cornerstone of new spiritual growth. What seems like the loss of a relationship can become the cornerstone of a new and better friendship. What seems like a day of disaster is really "the day the Lord has made", a day to "rejoice and be glad in it". In other words, our Christian faith is as challenging as it is exciting.

    We mature in our spirituality as Jesus reveals himself through scripture, the Eucharist, in our hearts, in the love of people around us, in the gifts and talents God has given us, in the way circumstances fall into place and our prayers are answered, in the circumstances that DON'T seem good, in the people who are difficult to love, and in the dark where we can't see God at all.

    Ultimately, as Fr Chris points out, it is in the darkness of our lives, in our personal Jerusalems, that the nearness and action of God is most palpable. May we all be gifted with this realisation.