Monday, October 8, 2007

On the Way

Guru and disciples on pilgrimage. Oil on Canvas. Collection of the Missions Prokura sj. Nuerenberg.

Strangely the two unknown disciples did not recognise Jesus when he joined them on the road - though there had been bewildering rumours of his rising. In fact, this ambiguity was to become the pattern in encounters with the risen Jesus. The Jesus-story is far from an historically complete biography, leaving us with no questions concerning who this person actually was. The Apostle Paul, blindly falling to the ground, and asking: ‘Who are you, Lord’, is not atypical. As Albert Schweitzer concluded his extensive Quest for the Historical Jesus a hundred years ago: ‘He comes to us as One unknown....And to those who will obey him....He will reveal Himself in the toils and conflicts, the an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their experience Who He is’ (p.401)

At this time, though, as these two Jesus-followers returned to their own village and its secure familiarity, they were thoroughly confused. Disappointment and depression mixed with the excitement that something unexpectedly new may be happening. So they made their confused feelings known to a fellow-traveller who joined them on the road. Asking them why they were so depressed in spirit, their confusion spills out, and the ‘strange’ traveller explains the meaning of what has been happening.

We can see faint signs of the wounds of Jesus, and there is a faintly ethereal brightness in this central figure; otherwise he seems to be just a fellow-traveller. It was only when he ‘broke bread’ with them at Emmaus that ‘their eyes were opened’ and recognition dawned. (Jyoti has portrayed this bread-breaking scene in several pictures). Equally mysteriously – and typical of the resurrection visitations – the risen Christ disappears.

Making pilgrimage to a special place, but even more, being a constant pilgrim in life, is central to people of so many faiths. The Gospels (much of the Bible) are full of such journeying in a dislocated world – pilgrims who seek to move on from where they are, move on to some new life, new world. ‘We are travellers and pilgrims, seeking…..’, as the letter to the Hebrews puts it. Jesus himself was always on the move, travelling on from place to place: ‘the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head’, Jesus said of himself. We too are in an ever-changing world that affords no final, secure resting place. So we find Christ to be a fellow-traveller with us, who breaks bread with us, and helps us discover the meaning of things.

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