Evening Presence

Luke 24: 13-35

Every year at Easter, Time magazine does a cover story in some way pertaining to God. This year’s cover story was entitled, “Let There Be Night”. The author made the point that if you want to even begin to understand this mystery of God, you must be willing to go into the dark. She says that from the time we are little kids we are taught that light is good and dark is evil and we spend much of our time trying to avoid it, and we fear it, and over centuries have even projected that fear onto people who have different color skin, it’s so embedded into us all our lives. Yet, she says, you must go there and how often it is there that trust can begin to grow.

As much as we hear the stories of Jesus prior to the Resurrection, much of it takes place in the light of day. All the healings and teachings often take place during the day and in the evening goes off to pray and goes to the Garden prior to his death, and yet, all that time in the light and the disciples can’t quite grasp who he really is. It’s so often beyond them.

But these post-resurrection stories are quite often just the opposite. Many of them take place at night just as the new day dawns where it’s still mostly dark or even in today’s story on the road to Emmaus, there is a gradual movement towards evening time and the setting of the sun. As a matter of fact, their eyes aren’t “opened” until the evening! They had plenty opportunity to believe and trust. They’ve heard the stories. They’ve gone to the darkened tomb themselves, and yet, it’s not enough. Somehow it’s still beyond them and so they go back and their eyes are prevented from recognizing him. Why? Because they are still weighed down by their own darkness of grief, lost hope, shattered expectations, wondering if any of it really matters, broken relationships and dreams, and for the most part, now walking towards a dead end in life only to encounter a stranger along the way, a stranger that takes the lead to the end of day, evening falls on that first day of the week. Jesus always walks along. Darkness remains a total mystery and something to be feared. And yet there’s a burning within that pushes them to invite Jesus to stay, to invite him into their darkened home for a meal, a moment of deep intimacy where break is broken.

On this, the first day of the week, during the dark of day, Jesus present, these two disciples finally become present to the Presence, their eyes are opened, and all that was once lost has now been found. In a moment, all that weighed down was lifted and they hurry out, in the darkness, to cast light on all that had taken place along the way. The One who did not avoid the great darkness of death, but rather goes to reconcile life and death, light and darkness, now finally leads these disciples with a renewed sense of vision. Peter remarks in his speech in the first reading today that not even the “throes of death” can hold him or them back and separate!

My friends, we pray, “let there be night,” even if it means sitting in a darkened room for a while and looking at things in a new way, confronting the fear. We know what it’s like when there is darkness…we stumble, fall, feel anxious, and so on, and yet, as it is for the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, journeying from day to evening, holding onto all that prevents us from seeing, but where we can also become present to the Presence, our eyes can be opened, and we begin to see life in a new way, a renewed way, where all can be one, light and dark, and even, as this season reminds us, life and death.

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