In Matthew’s Christmas story of the Magi traveling the road to Bethlehem the wisdom of the world comes and meets Jesus. As a result of this meeting the wise ones of the world return to their home country by another way.
After we’ve encountered Jesus, we must go home, not by our culture’s way of life, but by the way of the prophet Micah: we feel drawn to “do justice, love kindness and, walk humbly with God”. Or maybe we travel the way of St. Paul, who reminds us that “the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but justice, peace and joy in the spirit”.
On the road to Easter all of us have a Palm Sunday – the day we get married, or have a birthday or receive a degree or are honoured. People throw palms before us in some form or other: they celebrate us, they prize and praise us.
All of us have a Holy Thursday -The time we break bread and drink wine and have a meal with people of consequence, people that love us and whom we love. We’re willing to break up our lives for another, we’re willing to say, “You nourish me and because we are together I might nourish you.”
All of us have a Good Friday- the day when we feel abandoned, totally alone, when nobody understands us, nobody is willing to walk with us or watch an hour with us. Even the one we love deeply and most intimately seems a total stranger to us. “Death comes about a little harder when brought about by friends.”So many of us are trying to get first class tickets into an afterlife All of us have a Holy Saturday -the grey day, the in-between day. It happens when we’re running away in fear, when we’re hiding out in an upper room, when we’re waiting, waiting, waiting – sometimes creatively or artistically, sometimes in fear and terror: “Are you the one who is to come or should we wait for someone else?”
Then, of course, we have the central day of mystery – Easter Sunday. In resurrection is the fullness of dying. Christianity does not teach firstly that there’s a life after death. Don’t worry about that. So many of us are trying to get first class tickets into an afterlife, business seats on the flight to the hereafter. Christianity is about recognizing that there’s life in dying.
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were slow to believe in the law and the prophets. And so, “beginning with Moses (the law) and all the prophets, the risen Christ interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures”.
If we listen only to the story of our North Arnerican culture, if Like Peter we warm ourselves at the fires in the courtyard of the Empire, its attitudes and values will define us more than the gospel. We will come to believe that we are what we drive, what we wear, what we earn, how we smell, how we look or where we live. Even as disciples of Jesus we may find ourselves saying like Peter, “I don’t know the man”. We will never be people fired with passion, commitment or dedication.
If, however, we recapture the biblical stories and bring them into conversation with our times, we will hear the word of God for us today, a word of new life, a word of hope. Our hearts will burn within us as he talks to us on the road.
Paul E. Hansen