Sunday, April 26, 2020

An Unexpected Grace

It seems our lives involve a continuous repetition of that trek to Emmaus. Disappointed, our best hopes dashed, we very often plod glumly along. So self-absorbed, we often forget that Jesus is right beside us. He notices our sadness and inquires, “What are you going over in your heads? What’s the matter?” We are astonished. Doesn’t Jesus see? Everything’s falling apart. Our best hopes for success, accomplishment, happiness, health, holiness are all over. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Then he explains. But how hard it is for us to understand that the Cross always precedes the Resurrection. We must normalize the cross for one another, not as sad resignation but faith-filled acknowledgement of the reality of suffering as graced gateway to intimacy with the resurrected Lord Jesus. And so, he reminds us again, “How slow you are to understand. It’s supposed to be hard. The cross happens, but it's no longer a dead end."

This was, after all, always the goal of his Incarnation - to share unreservedly in our sorrow, and so to rescue us from unending death and fear. His coming down to us in Mary’s virgin womb reaches its culmination on the cross, for there he reveals the unimaginable breadth of God’s boundless compassion. Jesus allows himself to suffer because he can do no less. And it is there in this very weakness, the weakness of love, that he reveals the sublimity of his divinity. On the cross God is most truly God. His power is made perfect in his weakness, and his power can reveal itself only in our weakness. And now battered as we are - fearful, confused and hurting – perhaps we can recognize our own weakness and our desperate need for him more than ever. Perhaps now at last we will recognize him in the broken bread that he is, in the broken bread that we are. Doubtless an unexpected grace is being offered to us.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, The Supper at Emmaus, 1601, oil and tempera on canvas, 141 x 196.2 cm. The National Gallery, London.