The vision of Emmaus Journey is to help Catholics grow in their understanding and commitment to sacred Scripture and Church teachings, and to fan into flame people’s commitment to prayer and evangelization. Emmaus Journey contributes to these goals by providing ministry and formation resources, and leadership training for parishes, small-groups, and individuals.

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Rich Cleveland's picture

A Compelling Witness

In one of Aesop's fables an old Mother Crab says to her son, "Why do you walk sideways like that my son? You ought to walk straight." The little crab responded, "Show me how, dear Mother, and I'll follow your example." Though Mother Crab tried in vain to walk straight she could only move sideways. She quickly saw how unreasonable was her advice to her son. The moral of the fable is obvious, it is easier to tell, than to do, and an example is more authoritative than is a lesson.

Jesus came teaching with authority as we see within the Gospels. He advanced his ministry by being the Master Teacher. Jesus communicated truth in simple but powerful word pictures and parables, and then reinforced his teachings by using miraculous power to heal and to do good. Intertwined throughout, he lived an exemplary life responding to lepers, tax collectors, prostitiutes, and his dearest friends with the same consistent love and righteousness. Jesus' teaching authority did not come from utilizing the latest teaching techniques, or by practicing recommended communication skills. His authority came from within, from who he was, Emmanuel, God with us, and from the truth he taught—the very Truth of God. 

Not many of us are called to publicly teach, speaking for God on his behalf. Perhaps that is fortunate. But like the old Mother Crab mentioned by Aesop in his fable, we spend a lifetime teaching character and values of one kind or another. We do this not primarily by what we say, but most certainly by how we live. Usually our example speaks so loudly, that others cannot hear what we are saying. What an awesome responsibility is then laid at our feet; to communicate Truth by our lives. Jesus is attempting to authoritatively communicate to those around you the truth and love of God, and he has chosen you to be his simple but powerful word picture. You have been chosen to be his living parable, and invited to be a living icon of Jesus Christ. The purpose of an icon, as C. S. Lewis explains, "is not to fix attention upon itself, but to stimulate and liberate certain activities ... in the worshipper." This is the role of an example; to authoritatively focus people's attention on the Lord of our life, so that they in turn can be freed to worship him. What an awesome invitation is given us to illustrate his message of grace and love.

Pope Paul VI explains it this way, "... for the Church the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one's neighbor with limitless zeal. As we said recently to a group of lay people, 'Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.' St. Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the word. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness to fidelity to the Lord Jesus—the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity." (From Evangelization in the Modern World by Pope Paul VI, paragraph 94.) Our lives of chastity, reverence, sanctity and obedience to Jesus empowers and brings authority to the Church's message of Jesus and his Kingdom.

Rich Cleveland's picture

Mercy's Intended Consequence

The tension we feel between justice and grace is something we struggle with throughout our lives. On the one hand we believe that people ought to get what they deserve. People who do evil should receive their just recompense. On the other hand we want those we love to receive mercy and not what their wrong behavior warrants. For instance, my dad spent a life-time struggling with alcoholism. It wrecked his marriage, damaged his family, and made shambles of his life. There is little evidence that he ever took responsibility for what he did, or for the harm he caused by the abuse which stemmed from his alcoholism. But every one of us in the family, though victims of his bad choices, hopes that somehow in the final days of his hospitalisation that he called out to Christ for salvation. We don't want him to receive what he deserves.

The mercy of salvation in Jesus doesn't make sense to the unconverted mind. Sacred Scripture reports that the world will see the simplicity of the Gospel as foolishness. Even for the converted the mystery of salvation can only be understood in part, and so we praise and thank God for the wonders of mercy and grace. It is with this sense of wonder and mystery that we understand Mark 20:1-16. Initially to us, like to those complaining in this parable, it seems unfair that the workers hired in the last hour of the day, should be paid the same wage as those who began at daybreak and worked all day. But a closer reading and reflection enables us to see that it really isn't a matter of fairness but of mercy's generosity. This is especially true when we realize that the parable is an illustration of the way things are different in the Kingdom of Heaven, than they are in the kingdoms of the earth. When we realize what this parable teaches indirectly about our eternal salvation, we can then only respond,  "Hallelujah!".

We learn from Scripture that God's ways are not our ways, and that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We can be thankful for that, for when it comes to eternity who of us wants to receive only that which we deserve? Who of us does not desire to be treated with a more merciful form of justice than that which we see displayed here on earth? Only those persons who are blind observers of their own spiritual shortcomings would want it otherwise. Rather, we long for mercy(God not giving us what we deserve - eternal death) and grace (God giving us what we do not deserve - eternal life). This parable points out that merciful and gracious treatment is exactly what we can count on from our loving Father.

The Scriptures also teach that knowledge of God's love and mercy will have a profound affect on our entire life -- an affect which St. Paul teaches is the intended affect of receiving God's love and mercy; "For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come  to the conviction that one died for all; He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." Understanding God's gracious love will motivate us to live for him, and not for ourselves. When we respond by living only for ourselves it is apparent that we have not yet fully grasped God's love for us.

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