luctus-et-angor

It is the second day after the Crucifixion. The Teacher is dead. Some of His small band of followers are leaving Jerusalem after spending the Sabbath in hiding.

Luke 23:50-55 – Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.  This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid.  Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Simon Peter

Sorrow and anxiety oppressed the hearts of every disciple but Peter carried the heaviest load. He had denied Him three times before fleeing like a coward. He had always been a man of action, he had never feared death, his sword was always ready. Although he was up in years, his grip was still steady. He was known for being a fighter. One could not run a fishing business among Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Jews without being respected, and in those rough Galilean shores, being feared was even better than being respected. Peter was feared. But that night by the fireside, a shadow  wrapped around his heart. Almost four years following the Teacher had changed him without him ever noticing. How could he deny Him before a sorry crowd of Temple beggars, and house servants, mostly women! “You failed Him, Simon. You abandoned Him.” His chest was a bag filled with confusion and guilt. He could not allow the others to see him crying but he had left the group often so he could shed bitter tears of repentance. Simon, the boss, the one that thought nothing of sailing into a stormy night to beat the others to the catch. Tough Simon was going behind a rock to cry his fill.

Now it was time to hide. He could be recognized again. He decided to leave Jerusalem and try to reach Galilee as fast as he could. Mother was with John’s family. Now he had to lead the the others to a safe place. He would have left earlier, it would have been safer but those women from Lazarus’ household had come with stories about seeing the Teacher. Peter had gone to the grave with John and there was nothing there. He had seen the empty tomb with his own eyes but he also knew of His agony and death… he was confused and scared. He had to go to Galilee and try to understand what was going on. His mind was going in all directions. There were moments when he thought he could not reason any longer. He gathered his men and left Jerusalem still fearful of being recognized. Only a week before he was preparing to sit at the right hand of Messiah. Now he was scurrying into the shadows overwhelmed by shame. Nothing made sense any longer.

Luke 23:13- 29 – Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.

While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,  but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,  and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see Him.’

Then He said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them the things about Himself in all the Scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them.

They entered the inn and gathered around the table …

Luke 23: 30-34 – When He was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking to us on the road, while He was opening the Scriptures to us?’

That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

In the Gospels, the inn is always a figure of the Church. See Luke 10:25-37.

He made Himself known to them

He called Peter’s men “foolish and slow of heart” and then He reminded them that God had announced hundreds of years ago those very things that were now making them anxious and sorrowful.

Do you go through days like that from time to time? I do! Often we are as foolish and slow of heart as Peter and his friends. We tend to forget that God is in control. The disciples thought they were living the last days of the Church in spite of Jesus’ promise – made to them less than two weeks earlier – that the powers of Hades would not prevail. To reinforce the point Jesus was transfigured before them and they had seen Moses and Elijah give witness that He was the long awaited Messiah. The Father had spoken to them in a thunder and confirmed it too! But that only added to their confusion because they were expecting a different kind of triumph. They thought Calvary was a defeat when in reality it was God’s victory over death and sin.

The lesson I draw from here is a lesson of confidence. Emmaus is a long introduction with a hidden eschatological meaning. Before going into that we have to examine how much are we going to trust the teachings of our Catholic faith. One short but powerful paragraph I found in David Warren’s blog last week will help us understand the right attitude.

[Arthur de] Gobineau, the Prince of Pessimists, to [Alexis de] Tocqueville, the last credible optimist, 1856: “Don’t doubt my religion. If I say I am Catholic, it is the truth. Of course I am not a perfect Catholic, which I regret, though some day I hope to be one, but at least I am a sincere Catholic, Catholic in heart and soul, and if I believed for a moment like you that my historical ideas were in opposition to the Catholic religion, I should give them up immediately.”

Arthur de Gobineau trusted his faith more than his own ideas. I found the exact opposite  years ago in the person of a former Methodist pastor turned Catholic. Very confidently the man said to me – to the best of my recollection:

“I am very proud of my Protestant Scriptural formation and I still hold fast to the principle of Free Examination!”

How “foolish and slow of heart” one has to be to “hold on” to the Protestant principle of Free Examination after finding the Church and the Magisterium? Who is going to be right once we have “freely examined” and compared all the facts of a matter against God’s counsel? De Gobineau knew well that the teachings of the Church – “all that the prophets have declared” – are always going to be right because they are of divine origin. He knew it was foolish to embark on a free examination of the divine standard against which all human ideas are meant to be measured.

In the Garden of Eden, Eve was deceived into desiring the wisdom of God. She had been given a perfect husband who was the source of all her wisdom. Everything she knew, she learned from Adam. Tempted by the devil she quickly develop a desire to have “her own wisdom” by way of disobedience. She did not clear the matter with Adam, who was there to serve as her guide. In the end she got wiser through experience, she also incurred into disfavor with God and got all her offspring in some serious trouble.

It makes a lot of sense to always trust the wisdom of God. It will always save us a lot of grief and anxiety. Imagine how much pain the world would have been spared if Luther, Calvin, and King Henry VIII of England would have stopped just in time and thought like Gobineau:  “My ideas are in opposition to the Catholic religion, I must give them up immediately.”

When Peter and his friends felt their hearts burning while the Resurrected Christ was opening the Scriptures to them, it was because their sadness was a bad fit for the spiritual realities they were living through.  There should be no room for luctus et angor, sorrow and anguish in a free man’s heart. Why? Because that implies a distrust of God’s wisdom, power, and mercy. It also shows a disordered trust in our own puny understanding and strength. The pain in Simon Peter’s heart was the result of his self reliance. The five centuries of discord in the Church were the result of too many souls trusting their own powers of “free examination” – who wants to be free of God’s guidance and grace? Who is that foolish?

Our time to trust

I have heard too many voices lately repeating that “the Holy Spirit does not elect the Pope, the Conclave does!” Another genius I read commenting on a pseudo-Catholic page wrote confidently: “Show me ONE official document of the Church affirming that Bishops are picked by the Holy Spirit!” [ In Spanish, see La Libertad del Deber]

We wake up almost every day to shocking news coming from Rome. sometimes it seems that everything is going wrong, “the center does not hold” and the barque of Peter is listing perilously. All seems to be confusion and bad news and the nonsense coming off the mouth of those self appointed popes appears to be justified… But there the old rule comes handy. It simply cannot be that they are right and God is wrong or absent.

I do not know much Theology, much less about Canon Law but I still have some common sense left in me. The Pope is a Bishop, and here are some “official documents of the Church” clearly stating that Bishops are placed there by the Holy Spirit.

Acts 20:28 – Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. [Peter, the first Pope.]

And here is another official document of the Church should the Bible not suffice:

The bishops themselves, however, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls. Together with the supreme pontiff and under his authority they are sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ, the eternal pastor. Christ gave the Apostles and their successors the command and the power to teach all nations, to hallow men in the truth, and to feed them. Bishops, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them. [Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus proclaimed by His Holiness, Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965.]

Calvary was not in the plans of Peter. Bad Bishops were certainly not in anyone’s plans but there may be some, even many. The fact that most of us do not understand what is going on does not nullify the old truth: God is in control.

After blessing the bread at the inn, Jesus disappeared leaving the Consecrated Bread on the table – for us Catholics that  bread left on the table is Jesus Himself in Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

In these days of persecution, darkness, and confusion — if  the Consecrated Bread was made to disappear from the tabernacles of the world by some action or omission of the Church, it would be truly poetic if the Lord was suddenly revealed before our eyes thus reversing what happened at the inn after Calvary.

Let us make an effort to trust and be glad. Don’t “stand still, looking sad” before Him.  Trust His wisdom, not your own.

Trust.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His Name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for You are with me;
your rod and your staff
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

The Divine Shepherd, Psalm 23, of David.

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