If the miracles, the fulfillment of all the OT prophesies and His explicit claims were not enough to confirm Jesus’ divinity, perhaps his talent for the well placed question would do it. As he walks along with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, (Luke 24) he asks what they were talking about. They look at him incredulously, and in great sorrow. Has this guy been under a rock or what? Cleopas answers him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Here comes the great question from Jesus: “What things?” The answer is an invitation from the Lord for them to empty their hearts to him, and they do. They are sad because they thought Jesus would be the one to save them from the Romans. But instead he was crucified, and to add insult to injury, someone stole the body! I’m not trying to trivialize the disciples’ disbelief. We know the rest of the story, but they didn’t. They didn’t yet have the Holy Spirit, and all they knew was they watched the One who raised the dead and feed the 5,000 be put to a brutal death. Could we blame them for being a little bummed out?
Call me Cleopas. How many times has it been me walking along the road with my head hung low, complaining about all the ways that God did not fulfill the plans I had in mind for him? As I’ve shared in previous posts, I had the whole thing worked out as to exactly how he was going to glorify himself, amaze the world and get my family back on track through Gianna’s long and healthy life. And just like the plan the Father had for his Son, it turned out ugly. But of course Jesus didn’t leave his disciples in their disappointment, and he hasn’t left me. He takes the time to open their eyes to the prophesies about himself (don’t you wish Luke had let us in on that conversation??) and then reveals himself to them in the breaking of the bread.
Okay, here’s my point: in our sorrow we can sometimes miss the Lord. I think of Mary Magdalene as another example. She wept for the Lord, while he stood at her feet. What a picture that brings to mind! How did he snap them out of grief enough to deliver the unbelievably joyous news that their tears were for naught? Through the Scriptures, through the Eucharist, through the listening of prayer. How many times do we not break long enough from our tears to look out for him? How many of us are sitting right next to the Savior, imprisoned by our own fear and grief?
And yet, when we do recognize him things are not as they were. It’s not like Jesus catches up to Cleopas and says, “Hey, wait! Remember that crucifixion thing? Smoke and mirrors. Boy, are you guys gullible.” No, the crucifixion was very, very real, and nothing can turn it into the plan the disciples were expecting. But in his resurrection, Jesus reveals that the suffering he underwent was much better than their plan for him to conquer Rome. From where we sit in history, don’t we have to agree? Wouldn’t it be kind of small potatoes for God to enter time in order to liberate a small religious group from yet another oppressive government? Not that God doesn’t care about the smallest trials in our lives, but come on: instead he solved the problem of evil and conquered death forever, for all generations past, present and future.
From an eternal perspective, we can let our grief make us “think small”. It would have been a huge joy for our family to have had a healthy baby, or even a medical miracle. These things are big in our life, and would have been easy for God to do. But if those things had happened, Gianna still would have died again at some time. Though I probably won’t know on this side of the veil exactly what plans God is actually fulfilling in and through my kids, I can rest assured they are bigger than my dreams for them. And really, the biggest miracle has been won for them: they enjoy the Beatific Vision.
So, though we don’t “give stuff up” for Easter, let’s stay faithful to our Lenten disciplines of prayer and Eucharist that we can have our eyes opened to the big plans of God for us.