listening to see, hearing to see

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This is the 4th talk given by The Rev. Alice Cabotaje Roshi at the Holy Week 2022 retreat.

Reading: On the Road to Emmaus | Luke 24: 13-35 (New International Version)

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Talk: Easter Sunday, 17 April 2022
Listening to See, Hearing to See
The Rev. Alice Cabotaje

In Luke 24:13-35, Cleopas and another disciple walked towards the village of Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. Their hopes were dashed.

They had expectations that Jesus did not fulfill. They expected Jesus to be the messiah and Jesus failed them.

They walked to Emmaus with heaviness in their hearts. The fact that they were walking towards Emmaus, away from Jerusalem, reflected that they had lost faith.

It didn’t matter that the women had told them that the tomb was empty. They still left Jerusalem.

What would we have done had we heard the tomb was empty? Would we have gone to check it out? Would we have stayed in Jerusalem? Or would we have left for some place?

To Cleopas and the other disciple, it didn’t matter that the women had told them that the tomb was empty. They still left Jerusalem.

They were immersed in their grief, in hopelessness, in fear… such that when Jesus appeared to them –- so unexpectedly –- and walked alongside them, they did not recognize him.

Jesus asked what they were talking about. And they told him about the life and death of Jesus. They said, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”

Jesus was right there with them, listening to them, and yet they didn’t see him. They could not… because they didn’t expect the stranger to be Jesus.

Then Jesus said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”

Fools indeed they were, if we were to define fools as those lacking judgment.

In the Tarot cards, there is an especially intriguing image of The Fool. This is a picture of a young man,  dressed in ragged animal skins, with a wreath of vine leaves on his chestnut hair, and dancing at the edge of the cliff.

There is some debate as to whether this is the first card in the deck, or the last – whether it represents lacking judgment, or deep insight.

Maybe Cleopas and the other disciple had to be fools. Fools in the sense that they had to be emptied – emptied of their fears, emptied of their clinging to what was or to what they hoped.

Mark Patrick Hederman, a Benedictine monk who wrote a book on the Tarot, interprets the fool as people who reach the depths of themselves, who reach rock bottom like the disciples. They are those who come in touch with the ground of their being… which opens them up in humility.

As we walk with the disciples to Emmaus, I’d like to invite us to walk with them as fools. Fools in the sense of being willing to be emptied… Fools in the sense of being open to our struggles and vulnerability…

Fools in the sense of being willing to surrender to life and all that comes with it… being willing to surrender to God, to Spirit, to Jesus.

Cleopas and the other disciple, which could be me, you, us, were in this fool’s state – humble and open — when Jesus taught them.

After Jesus taught, and as they listened, something shifted within them they didn’t quite know what it was, they didn’t quite know when exactly it began.

As they listened, they truly heard and realized that their hearts were on fire as Jesus talked to them. They said to each other, “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

So when Cleopas and the other disciple, which could be me, you, us, reached near the village and Jesus walked ahead as if he were going on, they stopped him and said, “Stay with us because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.

So Jesus went in to stay with them. “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them.”

 Upon hearing Jesus bless the bread and breaking it something happened. “…their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”  

Truly listening and truly hearing can awaken us. I remember a story about the musician Ray Charles who went blind at the age of seven.

There is a scene in a movie about him: he runs into his house and stumbles on a chair. He cries for his mother. His mother was about to help him when she decided to stop. She waited and watched.

Ray stopped crying. He became quiet. He listened and he heard the kettle whistle as the water was about to boil. He heard the wind pass through the corn stalks. He heard the hooves of a horse, and the dainty walk of a grasshopper on the wooden floor.

He becomes attentive to every sound around him and he said to his mother: “I hear you, too, Mama.”

Later he told someone, “I hear like you see.”

Upon listening and hearing, the disciples saw and they suddenly remembered.

Anamnesis is the Greek word for remembrance, for memory. It is to recall, to remember.

It happens in Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24, when Jesus said during the Last Supper, “…do this in remembrance (anamnesis) of me.” It is not just recalling, It is not just remembering.

Rather it is reliving the event by entering into it. It is recognizing and acknowledging God’s action and grace in our lives.

In the breaking of the bread, they suddenly remembered God’s action and grace in their lives. They remembered how Jesus was with them, which made them see that he has been with them all along… which made them see who he is in their lives.

To recall… to remember… to relive… What are those we can recall, remember, and relive that remind us of God’s faithfulness in our lives especially when we find ourselves like the disciples struggling in pain, in fear, in despair, when our hopes are dashed.

What are our stories of remembering, of reliving — that bring us to awakenings that help us recognize God’s abounding and abiding grace?

Could it be a parent, a child, a loved one, a friend, a student, a community, a song, a thunderstorm, a teacher an affirmation, a hug, a dog?

For the contemplative Henri Nouwen, his chance encounter with a reproduction of Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son made him relive what “coming home” to grace, to God meant.

It meant walking step by step toward the One who awaits him with open arms and wants to hold him in eternal embrace.

Nouwen writes, “Each little step toward the center seemed like an impossible demand, a demand requiring me to let go one more time from wanting to be in control, to give up one more time the desire to predict life, to die one more time to the fear of not knowing where it will all lead, and to surrender one more time to a love that knows no limits.”

What are our stories of remembering, of reliving that bring us back to each other, that bring us to rekindle a love that has grown cold, that bring us back to community, to hope… …and to faith that something wonderful is coming like the way it happened to the disciples when they heard and their eyes were opened?

What are our stories of remembering, of reliving that call us to participate again and again in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Yes, again and again…  …because the experience of resurrection is not a one-time conversion experience, but an ongoing revelation for us.

The very structure of Luke-Acts shows that just as there are recurring defeats and crucifixion,  there are also recurring victories and resurrection, throughout our lives.

And throughout recurring defeats and victories, throughout recurring crucifixion and resurrection – God, Spirit, Jesus, shows up always and in many ways… making us remember that we are loved and embraced in all that we are fully and unconditionally.

So remember keep listening! Keep hearing and be awakened to a love that knows no limits. Be awakened to the joy of our True Self!

Christ is Risen! Hallelujah! Happy Easter!