Ampleforth Abbey

14 December 2017

Third Sunday of Easter 2017

Homily preached by Fr Chad Boulton OSB at the Conventual Mass with the College.

Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35 (Road to Emmaus)

She thought ‘he’s the one’ – she adored her father, he was wise, strong, kind, she loved to spend time with him, fixing her bicycle, tending the garden, exploring his library. So she was surprised when his career seemed to stall, and saddened when his impatience, and his drinking, seemed to increase. In the end she was glad to escape to university.

Where she thought ‘he’s the one’ – she adored her professor, he was bright, charismatic, innovative, the founder of a new political movement, breaking the mould, offering a future. She demonstrated with him, campaigned for him, sacrificed her time, her degree for the cause that was slowly, ruthlessly, undermined and blocked by the powers that be, that always will be. In the end she was glad to escape to the city.

Where she thought ‘he’s the one’ – she adored her boss, he was brilliant, adventurous, fascinating, inviting her to share his world, to share his flat. She was bewitched, betrothed and then gradually bewildered, as his work proved more compelling than his new wife, whom he seemed to take for granted, unable or unwilling to respond to the way she was changing, In the end she was glad to escape – but to where…?

Where do you place your hope? Who is the one? Is yours a surfer’s life - you pick the wave, you enjoy the ride and then you suffer the crash, stranded on the beach as the water retreats. Cleopas and his friend in today’s gospel had thought that Jesus was the one. They had followed, listened, committed: our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. But his death had brought everything crashing down, & now they had to pick themselves up, and hope for another, better wave. In the end they were glad to escape Jerusalem.

But this stranger who walked with them didn’t seem to understand. He tried to explain to them about suffering, that the Messiah had to suffer, that suffering could become the road to glory. Does that make sense to you? Or do you look for someone who will spare you any suffering who will envelop you like the perfect father, who will inspire you like the perfect leader, who will captivate you like the perfect lover? And so you begin an endless quest for ‘the one’, you enter a never-ending circle of promise and disappointment

Those two men escaping Jerusalem discovered a deeper truth. The circle is broken by the cross. A circle goes endlessly round on itself. A cross seems like two clashing lines, but they open up in an infinite expansion, like the 4 points of the compass. That cross broke open their closed hearts. Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road? And the cross broke open their closed eyes - it was when he broke the bread, that they finally recognised him as The One, the one they had thought a failure.

Your faith is not a contract against failure: it’s not - ‘if I believe, God will ensure me a successful life. And if that does not happen, then I no longer believe.’ Faith is not a contract - it is a vocation, a partnership. If you die with Christ, you will live with Christ. Faith does not insulate you from suffering, it is the path through suffering to the glory beyond. That is easy for a comfortable monk to say. It is not easy for an anxious teenager to live out, when your family neglects you, when your school burdens you, when you doubt or even hate yourself.

It is only possible if the scriptures are explained to you, if the bread is broken for you. When you meet for Lectio, you can begin to hear the voice of Jesus. When you gather for Mass you can begin to recognise the face of Jesus. When you want to escape, listen for that voice, look for that face and the road to Emmaus can become the road back to Jerusalem.

No single person can be ‘The One’ - no parent, no leader, no lover. Because ultimately you are meant for a different one, the one who enables you to love the many in your life - at home, at work, at play. We can talk to you about values, about principles, but ultimately there is a very simple question – is Jesus The One?