Reflection for Sunday – April 23, 2023

Readings: Acts 2: 14,22-33; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35 
Preacher: Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler

Over Easter weekend, a friend lost everything in a house fire. I mean everything! Precious childhood mementos. Passport. Every bit of clothing. Furniture. “It’s only things,” he was quick to say. “No one was hurt.”

Perspective is important, isn’t it?  Cleopas and companion (possibly his wife —cf John 19:25b) are struggling to find that. Trying process recent events. Blinded by their confusion. And all-consuming grief. Clueless about the identity of the stranger who joins them on their way home.

In loving reproach, Jesus exclaims, “How foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe!” Did interpreting for them all the Scriptures pertaining to him make it easier to recognize him in the breaking of the bread? I wonder. How everything changed once they recognized him! Perception matters. They suddenly realized that he was with them all along! Then, nourished by God’s Word and the blessed bread, they rushed back to join the others in Jerusalem. And learned that Jesus had also appeared to Peter.

Only days ago, Peter had denied Jesus. Now, judging from his speech in Acts, he and the community went out. Announcing all that God had done for the whole world by raising Christ from the dead.

What transformed the cowering, fearful, locked-behind-closed- doors disciples into bold witnesses to the Risen One? Nothing less than his Gift, as Peter explains. Through the pouring out of God’s Spirit, Jesus’ ministry is to continue through his followers.

Like Cleopas and his companion, we, too, are on the way. And, like them and the rest of the disciples, God’s Spirit has been poured out on us. What keeps us from recognizing Jesus in our midst? What blinds us? Distractions are plentiful, aren’t they? Current events. Family issues. Work problems.

Might we ourselves also be slow of heart? Overwhelmed. Slow to believe, to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit within us? I struggle with that question. It is not a matter of Jesus’ presence, but of our awareness. Our perception. God’s Spirit has been poured out on all of creation. As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins said, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil…” Can we perceive it?

Perhaps one finds it easier to see in nature, But what if we were to ask the Spirit to help us see Jesus in others? To find hidden goodness in seemingly unlikely people, places and situations? Imagine what a different world that could create!

What if we could admit our difficulty and ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our heart? Ask to have the fire of divine love enkindled in us that we may see? Where does God want to lead us into greater awareness? The mystic St. Hildegard of Bingen taught that the Holy Spirit can draw us into the power and pattern of divine love. Can enlighten our mind’s eye. And give us the power to speak the prophetic word.

Jesus has promised to be with us always. Loves us unconditionally. Delights in all that we are. And calls us to be about God’s work. Nourished by God’s Word and the blessed bread, our eyes may be opened. And we, too, can recognize and follow the Risen One more completely.

Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler
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