3rd Sunday of Easter (Ages 9-12): Retreat
3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A
9-12 year olds
(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
I hope you have just read the Gospel because I am going to retell it in my own words. The Word of God is much more powerful than my words can ever be, and you should always treat yourself to the full effect!
Two disciples leave Jerusalem for a nearby town called Emmaus, about a 2 hour walk away. They have some knowledge of recent events: Jesus has died on the cross; now, on the third day since the death, women are saying that he is Risen from the dead; although they say he is alive, no one has seen Jesus. The two disciples have come to some understanding of these events: Jesus was a prophet--one who listened so closely to God that he communicated all he heard in word and in action; Jesus' death means the death of their hopes that he would redeem Israel--that he would make things right between people and God; the third day should have meant something important. They are walking away from these events.
Into their discussion comes Jesus. They do not recognize him. After giving their explanation of events, Jesus gives his own explanation, relying on the Word of God as a guide. He shows them that there is another way--God's way--to see the events that have occurred. When they reach Emmaus, Jesus seems to be going further but the disciples invite him earnestly to stay with them. They share a meal. During the meal, Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives them bread. At this moment they recognize Jesus, and he vanishes. They immediately return to Jerusalem, rejoin the other disciples and share their experiences.
Does that sound about right?
When I was preparing to write this reflection for you, I consulted other people's reflections on this Gospel reading. More than one person describes the disciples as "going the wrong way." That is, they are leaving Jerusalem instead of staying where Jesus has risen from the dead. Indeed, when I wrote for the youngest children, I said that the disciples are lost because they are going the wrong way. This is one way to interpret--to understand--the Gospel.
But as I began to write for you, I started to feel uneasy. The idea that the two disciples are going the wrong way didn't sit right with me. I started to think that that is not the only way to interpret the reading. Is there another way to look at the Gospel?
In fact, this reading shows us that people can look at the same facts and get two different interpretations.
Could we say, instead, that the disciples are retreating from Jerusalem? They have experienced grief, their vision of what the world would be like has shattered, and they have now been given a crazy new hope. They are not sure whether it is safe to believe it. The events that have occurred have given them a lot to think about. Perhaps they feel they need a little space and time to reflect?
They take some time apart from all the confusion. They retreat to Emmaus. And into their retreat comes Jesus.
They spend time with him reflecting on the Word of God. They listen. They are given a new way--God's way--to see things. They invite Jesus to stay, and he stays. Together they share a meal, and in the breaking of the bread, they know him. They are refreshed and energized. In that moment they set out to return to their community in Jerusalem, ready to tell others what they now know.
How does this representation sound?
When we describe it this way, it sounds like a familiar pattern. When we go to Mass, we retreat from our daily lives for a short time. We take who we are--all of our fears and hopes, all our sorrows and our joys--and we retreat for a time to think about them with God. We listen to the Word of God and we are helped to see life in a new way--in God's way. We share a meal and we know Jesus again in the breaking of the bread. Then we go out again, refreshed and energized to share what we know with the world.
In this time of pandemic, we have retreated even longer. We have so much time now to reflect on our lives with God. We listen to the Word of God together and into our lives, Jesus comes. We invite him to stay, and he stays. We do not share Eucharist, but I wonder, I just wonder, if there is still a way for us to know him in the breaking of the bread? What do you think?
And when this time of retreat is over, after spending all this time with the Word of God, I wonder then what all we will know? How our hearts will burn! And we will go out into the world to share what we know.