8 Apr – Easter Wednesday
Once, when Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the prayers at the ninth hour, it happened that there was a man being carried past. He was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in. When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them. Both Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us.’ He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ Peter then took him by the hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, he jumped up, stood, and began to walk, and he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God. Everyone could see him walking and praising God, and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and unable to explain what had happened to him.
Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.
Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’
Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.
When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’
They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.
He turned to them expectantly
Last year, I mentioned that I attended a retreat that began on Good Friday and ended on Holy Saturday. It was a semi-silent retreat and the first I’ve ever attended in preparation for Easter. The purpose of the retreat was to ascertain whether I should pursue a masters overseas with my own funding. The opportunity was attractive and I had many reasons within myself as to why I wanted to pursue it. But a part of me still wanted to consult God on it. In the course of the retreat, I realised God wasn’t going to give me a clear “yes” or “no”. Instead, there was an inner prompting inside to acknowledge my fear of loss and lack of control (mainly the fear of “not having achieved much” or anything significant with my life ) and to surrender my plans to him.
One year later I find myself planning for a marriage. Am I regretful that I did not undertake the Masters overseas? No. But do I consider it as an opportunity lost? Yes, to some extent. A part of me understands that with the decision to enter into marriage and have a family, the chance of ever pursuing a Masters overseas will be limited since my priorities would have changed. I would now have to think first and foremost of my family and the way in which we direct our limited resources. A part of me, however, believes in God’s plan. One year ago, I would not have imagined myself embarking on the path to marriage this year – I would not have dared to even imagine that my future spouse would choose and agree to settle here in Singapore. Yet, God has made a way for us. He has even blessed us financially with an unexpected bonus and a pay raise between the both of us. I am grateful for his blessings.
Reflecting on today’s Gospel, I realise life never really goes the way we expect it to. In the first reading for instance, a crippled man meets Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate. Why was he there? To beg for his living. When Peter told the beggar “Look at us”, the bible says that the man “turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them”. He was hoping to receive some money. Wasn’t that, by all standards, a reasonable expectation? But what he received from Peter and John was beyond any thing he could have imagined. Who would’ve thought that they could give a man, who was born crippled from birth, the newfound ability to walk? Wasn’t it unheard of?
The disciples on their journey to Emmaus were no different. They too had their expectations – they expected, after the series of events in Jerusalem, that the crucifixion of Jesus would be the end of it all. Gone was the supposed Messiah. Filled with disappointment, they recounted the events to a stranger (without realising it was Jesus) and struggled to make sense of it all. But who would have thought that Jesus was alive and walking with them? Who would have thought that his death was not the end, but the fulfilment of God’s promise and the beginning of Christ’s salvation in our lives?
Like the disciples, we are sometimes hedged in by our expectations. We fail to recognise God’s hand or intervention in our lives because we are too set or fixed in living life a certain way. We want to achieve and succeed on our terms, which causes us to become blind at times to God’s other blessings in our lives. We fail to recognise the options and alternatives, and even when our blessings are identified sometimes, we dismiss it and focus instead on the parts which we think we’re lacking.
My brothers and sisters, let us believe that when our risen Lord promises to lead us and walk with us, He knows where we’re going. And like the disciples and the man by the Beautiful Gate, he will surprise us beyond our expectations – if only we will let him.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)
Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to let go of our expectations, and be open to newfound blessings & directions in our lives.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for your bountiful goodness in our lives.