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When I was a kid back in grade 8, I went to a Catholic School and many of the teachers were nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph as there convent was just up the street. One day we were having a special lunch and we were lined up in the cafeteria waiting our turn in line. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The head nun who was the principal made a note, and posted on the apple tray: “Take only ONE, God is watching.” Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. I took out a marker and on a piece of paper wrote this note, “Take all you want, God is watching the apples.”

That may not be a true story but I have had occasion over the past few weeks to think back on earlier days. My father-in-law was in his 93rd year. We first met 45 years ago when I was a nervous teen age boy dating his daughter. Over the last two weeks his whole family was with him as he entered into the final stages of his life and he passed away in April 4th the same day as his father had died some 60 years earlier.

In times like this it is natural for people to reflect back to earlier days.  As a deacon one of the great privileges and honours I have been given is to be with families at this time when someone they love has died.

In a sense the Christian community is such a family that comes together during Holy Week to remember the death of Jesus on that Cross in Calvary.

If you can think back that far remember that Holy Thursday night when Jesus gave us the gift of his body and blood.

On Good Friday, we witnessed his death which was proceeded by his suffering.

In today’s Gospel we are back in that Upper Room with the disciples who had walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

While walking home they had met Jesus but they did not recognize him. This is similar to Mary Magdalene’s experience in the Garden.

While traveling together Jesus shared the scriptures with them. We are told that their hearts burned. When Christ broke the bread with them they immediately know it was the Christ and that Jesus’ death on the Cross was not the end of the story.

One interesting point of the Road to Emmaus chapter of the New Testament is that there are two disciples walking with Jesus. One is named, Cleopas, but the other is unnamed. I suggest this is on purpose and that each of us is invited to see ourselves as that disciple.

If we continue the journey with Jesus and we let this Big Story penetrate our hearts there are many lessons for us that, if learned and practiced will change our lives.

Here are four big lessons from our Big Story:

It is a Story of Love

You may not know this but the story of our faith as told in the bible and as it has unfolded through the years is one of love. When asked what the greatest commandment is Jesus tells is that there are two:

Love God with all your heart is the greatest commandment: In other words you are the beloved child of a loving God; and the second is to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

But it raises the question: What does Jesus mean by Love?

We learn more about love in St. Paul’s letters. He tells us that Love is always kind, (even when the other deserves no kindness), it is always patient (even when the other deserves no patience), it is not self-seeking or boastful. Love perseveres through all things.

It is a Story of Forgiveness

I have been told that the majority of teachings in the New Testament have to do in one way or another with forgiveness. Our God knows that we are all far from perfect. The greatest parable that Jesus shares with us is that of the prodigal son and the loving father who welcomes him home.

Jesus knew this about all of us as humans which is why from the Cross He says, “Father Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

It is a Story of Suffering

The story of Jesus we have lived over this past Holy Week in the Christian calendar speaks so clearly of our human journey.

It tells us that suffering is a part of life.

I encourage each of you to read, re-read or watch the story of Christ’s Passion. In less than a day you will see a man who experiences many kinds of suffering.

Jesus is betrayed by one of his closest friends. He is abandoned by all in his moment of greatest need.

He will experience unbelievable physical suffering as he is flogged and mocked with a crown of thorns.

In the midst of his suffering, Jesus picks up his cross and moves forward. This is one of the key lessons Jesus leaves us.

There is a second lesson about dealing with suffering. While walking towards his death, Jesus accepts the help of another person. This person offers to carry Christ’s Cross.

In the midst of suffering do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it and just as importantly offer it when you are able.

It is a Story of Coming Home

Death is not the end of the Jesus’ story just as it was not the end of my father-in-law’s story.

The resurrection stories of the past few weeks point out that our time on earth living this human existence is only a small part of the everlasting life we have been given by our loving Father.

When he was younger, there were people, especially his Mother, who told my father-in-law Joe, this Big Story. As he grew into adulthood he lived the story to the best of his ability.

After his suffering was ended and he died surrounded by his family the next part of the journey began.

He was guided by the Holy Spirit into the waiting hands of God the Father and the warm embrace of his brother Jesus. No more suffering only joy.

I imagine Jesus saying to my father-in-law that he had truly glorified him by the way he had lived his life. God then welcomed his child Joe, as he will one day welcome each of us, home, where we will know what it means to truly live in peace.

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