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Their Eyes Were Opened – Dcn. John Stanley

Dcn. John Stanley’s Homily April 25, 2020

“Well it’s a privilege to preach about this beautiful story in Luke’s Gospel we’re all very much familiar with, the road to Emmaus.  There are so many rich passages in this Gospel reading and so many themes, but this afternoon I want to draw our attention to that phrase, ‘Their eyes were opened.’  Where else in scripture do we hear that phrase, ‘their eyes were opened?’  In the third chapter of Genesis Adam and Eve had just eaten of the forbidden fruit and we read, ‘their eyes were opened for then they realized that they were naked and they covered themselves.’  They knew that they had sinned and they were ashamed.  They are then expelled from the garden, walking away, but notice that the Lord doesn’t abandon them.  He is close by and in their shame they try to hide themselves from God and there’ another parallel with Genesis: Adam and Eve are expelled from Paradise and they walk out of the garden.  The two disciples in our Gospel are also walking away from the Garden for they are walking away from Jerusalem, the City of David, the destiny of the Son of Man where he would be crucified, died, buried and on the third day rise again, Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit would descend upon the Apostles and where the Holy Spirit embolden them and the Church is born for Jerusalem is a symbol of Paradise, of Heaven.  These two disciples are walking away from Paradise.  They are walking in the wrong direction.  Like Adam and Eve, and like all of us sinners, they tend to walk in the wrong way and just as in Genesis chapter three, the Lord comes to walk with them.  No matter what we have done, the Lord is there walking with us.  Their eyes were opened.  For Adam and Eve this meant that they were aware that they had sinned against God and in their pride, they made themselves out to be their own God, to be their own Lord and Master.  Their eyes were opened to their own sin and they were expelled from the Garden.  They had no choice but to walk away from Paradise and even though God had not abandoned them, they hid themselves from God.  In Genesis, only a couple verses later we read in verse 15, what has become to be known as the protoevangelium, the very first Gospel where we hear of God’s promise of redemption where the offspring of Adam and Eve would crush the head of the snake.  The new Adam would forever destroy Evil.

Those two disciples in our Gospel did not recognize Jesus because they were expecting a Messiah who would be a conquering King, they weren’t expecting a suffering servant.  They knew the facts of Jesus, they had followed him, but they hadn’t put it all together.  They’d even heard the report of the resurrection and they recounted the details, but yet clearly they didn’t believe it because they were walking the wrong way and they were dejected and this other man, this companion comes up to them.  He lays out for them all that had taken place and the plan for salvation that was alluded to in that Genesis 3:15 the protoevangelium, how all the law givers and all the prophets had pointed to the suffering Messiah, to the cross, to Him.

In Genesis, our first parents, they grabbed and they grasped some really bad food and they ate it and then their eyes were opened, they experienced lethal heartburn.  For the two disciples, they were invited to the heavenly table to eat of the good food, the heavenly food and at the breaking of the bread they recognized Jesus the new Adam.  Their eyes were opened and they exclaimed in joy, ‘Weren’t our hearts burning!’ and then they turned immediately and despite the dangers of the night, they hurried back to Jerusalem.  So what is our take away from this comparison between Genesis and our Gospel, the Emmaus story?  Well, we’re all sinners and unless we open our eyes to our own sinfulness, our own pride, our own sense that we are in charge of our lives, only then will we see that God is near us, he walks with us and he wants us to turn to Him.  This pandemic has been a reminder of the fragility and the shortness of life yet many in our world, in our nation, in our parish and in our families are in fear.  So many of us do not see that the Lord is walking alongside us, so I think initially we must open our eyes to see that we are sinners.  In our pride we make ourselves out to be God, but once we can recognize our sinfulness just like the two disciples of Emmaus we can then open our eyes the second time and realize that all the time Jesus has been walking with us.

When we all gather together again and I pray it will be soon, the Church, the priests will be waiting for us, the sacraments will be waiting for us.  We hunger for the Eucharist, but perhaps after all we have experienced these past several weeks we will have our eyes opened to our own sinfulness.  If we truly open our eyes to see that God is God and we are not perhaps that first sacramental line that we should approach should be the confessional line?  So don’t let this pandemic, this realization that we are not in control lose what I believe is God’s desired effect in all of it, that we will open our own eyes in humility and experience the risen Lord.  We will feel our own hearts burning for the sacraments for once we open our own sin, our pride, then let us open our eyes a second time with our own hearts burning, let us change the path of our lives and journey straight away for the new Jerusalem.”