Come Unto Me, is an anonymous story from Brian Cavanaugh T.O.R., it goes like this:
A well-known sculptor had a burning ambition to create the greatest statue of Jesus Christ ever made. He began in his oceanside studio by shaping a clay model of a triumphant, regal figure. The head was thrown back and the arms were upraised in a gesture of great majesty. It was his conception of how Christ would look; strong and dominant.
“This will be my masterpiece,” he said, on the day the clay model was completed.
During the night, however, a heavy fog rolled into the area and sea spray seeped through a partially opened window. The moisture affected the shape of the clay so that when the artist returned to the studio in the morning, he was shocked at what he found.
Droplets of moisture had formed on the model creating an illusion of bleeding. The head had drooped. The facial expression had been transformed from one of severity to one of compassion. And the arms had drooped into a posture of welcome. It had become a wounded Christ-figure.
The artist stared at the figure, agonizing over the time wasted and the need to begin all over again. Then, inspiration came over him to change his mood. He began to see that this image of Christ was, by far, the truer one. So he carved these words in the base of the newly shaped figure: Come Unto Me.
Our readings this weekend try to teach us that we must try to recognize the presence of Christ in our life. He appears in our life’s journey in our family members, our neighbors, and even the strangers of our daily lives. Not always as the image we think about when close our eyes, or stare at the crucifix. In our first reading from The Acts of the Apostles we hear Peter get up (probably in a high place such a place where everyone could hear and see him), and he proclaims everything that Jesus did, his teaching and good works, while he was alive. Then he challenges the people to recognize that they did not accept him, and in fact assisted in leading Jesus to die. Peter does not do this to place shame or guilt upon them but rather to encourage them to see that this was all a part of God’s plan. He explains to them of how King David wrote in the Psalms that his special descendent would fulfill all the prophecies and even rise from the dead. Peter makes sure that the crowd understands that King David was not writing about himself, but rather about Jesus. The crowd felt relieved and forgiven, but also, they came to understand, make the connections, and as a result BELIEVE.
In the Gospel from Luke we hear the story of Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. What a powerful story! Note that Luke is saying that it is Easter Morning that this takes place. Two of Jesus’ followers are walking in the opposite direction of Jerusalem, walking away in grief, in sadness, in a great depression, in unbelief. Everything that they gave up to follow Jesus, words that he spoke, miracles that they witnessed, people had hope that things would finally change, and yet their beloved teacher died on a cross only two days prior. Pay careful attention to how Luke offers us this important lesson; Jesus appears to the two men as a complete stranger who has no idea of what things have taken place that has brought these two to simply give up and go home. Jesus’ physical appearance is different. They simply see Jesus as a stranger. Note, he then teaches them along this walk, connecting all the scripture that pertains to Jesus and what has happened. The normal customary thing to do for someone who teaches another is to invite them to have a meal with them, and Jesus accepts. When bread comes to the table, you know, when you go out to eat, and the waitstaff brings a small loaf of hot bread to your table… (Oh, how I love bread!). All of a sudden Jesus offers a prayer which turns into a blessing (You can see the other two in prayer, then all of a sudden the hearts start to BURN with the awareness that this stranger, is no stranger at all!! IT IS THE LORD!!!! Once he is recognized by the two, Jesus probably smiles with LOVE beaming out of him, and as Luke says, he vanishes. The two men run back to Jerusalem to let the others know. And the others who have already come to believe, they wonder how Jesus could be in more than one place at the same time. Can you imagine what they were thinking at that point?
So, what have we learned?
- Can we recognize the presence of Christ in our world today?
- Can we refuse Christ when he requests things of us?
- Do we see the presence of Christ in our boss or our employees?
- Do we see the presence of Christ in the babies who might be close to being aborted?
- Do we see the presence of Christ in the refugee or immigrant?
- Do we see the presence of Christ in the person who drives us crazy on the highway?
You see where I am going with this, I can go on and on and on!
Here is another important lesson, the people of Jerusalem and the two men on the road to Emmaus were both willing to have the scriptures explained to them. They needed to understand in order to believe.
Recognizing Christ requires a response!
In this time of uncertainty and anxiety due to the fears of the Coronavirus, of being sheltered at our homes, of not celebrating the normal activities of our yearly routine (graduations, confirmations, funerals, weddings, family gatherings, sporting events, etc.), is it easier or harder for you to recognize the presence of Christ? Harder I would answer. Don’t give up! We will journey together on the Road to Emmaus, we will learn from each other, and we will even share a meal, with the most delicious of breads, we will pray together, and Jesus will bless us, and we’ll respond!