The Synod as an Emmaus Journey!

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the Youth Synod that begins in Rome today.

In a post on the Eastern Province website, I tried to lay out how what happens in Rome will not stay in Rome. It will affect each of us, young and old, people committed to full-time ministry or part-time, people who are angry or hurt by recent revelations. The list goes on. It will affect each of us because the young among us are our future as a civilization and a church.

The image that is currently capturing my mind is that in some ways it might be compared to a three-week long walk along the road to Emmaus.

With all due respect to the scripture scholars among us let me quickly retell the story. As I retell the story I invite you to enter into the spirit of this retelling in your own imagination. Consider it as an imaginative prayer.

Enter the story with me

It had been a tumultuous week. Palm Sunday to Good Friday. The elevator went up… and then came crashing down. I tried to imagine these two people getting out of town. They had crashed and were now heading to Emmaus, maybe to get away from it all.

In my imagination, I tried to picture them. Perhaps they were husband and wife. Maybe they were two friends who had high hopes. It also might have been they held widely differing views with one saying “I told you it was too good to be true. But you wouldn’t listen. He wasn’t the Messiah of the Scriptures!” Or the other railing about the religious and civic establishment.

What we do know is they were talking, debating maybe even arguing. A stranger joins them and asks them what they were talking about. They both pour out their hearts so filled with confusion. He listens patiently. When he senses the time is right he begins to revisit what they thought they knew …but didn’t understand.

They thought they knew but hadn’t really understood. They stopped with what appealed to them… a restoration of the kingdom. They never took seriously what had been written about the Messiah as the suffering servant… that he would be despised and among the most abject of men. Painful truths! They looked at what they knew with new eyes. It now made sense.

Eager to see what other connections they could make they begged him to stay with them and have a meal. In this ordinary event of sharing food and drink their eyes were really opened. As he broke bread with them I wonder if they began to understand why he had told them of breaking bread together. “Do this in memory of me!” As they listened they began to see the bigger picture … and they would recognize him in an ordinary event in their lives. Their hearts began to burn within them. They ran to tell their brothers and sisters. They became people on a mission to share the good news of what they had discovered.

The journey of the participants in the Synod.

Regardless of the details, it strikes me there was movement from bickering to efforts to make sense of what they had experienced by looking at what they knew in a different light. They saw the inadequacy of the views. He really did have to suffer. Yet he was still with them! They recognized him in sharing their common need for nourishment. He was there in their midst. He was there in their midst listening to them and expanding their vision.

Isn’t that what the Synod is about? Seeing beyond each personal experience! My hope is that during these three weeks, each person present in the Synod Hall, and we who follow them from a distance, will be open to hear the Spirit and recognize the inadequacies of our individual understandings regarding the generations.

My hope is that all the participants will experience their own version of the Emmaus journey – looking at things they thought they knew… learning to see them in a new light.

Now that would be the beginning of a profound systemic change!

Thinking from an Emmaus perspective

  • Am I willing to recognize the limitations of my personal understanding of God’s plan?
  • Can I recognize that others see aspects of God’s plan I missed?
  • Enriched in breaking the bread of our lives together, will I become a missionary of the Good News with others?

Stay tuned for further reflections during the next three weeks.