17 April 2020

“Why do you look for the living among the dead” (Luke 24.5)

In 2009, Italy suffered its deadliest earthquake for 30 years. The town of Aquila west of Rome was particularly devastated. Students were crushed as they slept and entire families were entombed within collapsed buildings.

Doctor Colengeli, a lung specialist in a devastated hospital, managed to escape at 3:30am while apartment blocks imploded around him. His son Giuilo had gone to a friend’s house and was missing. Imagine the fear and the horror. Dr Colengeli set out to search for his son not knowing exactly where he was.

He said “I could not remember the street where he as staying. Can you imagine the fear of not knowing where to look for your son? It was dark. It was cold. I didn’t have the slightest idea where my son was and I was frantic. But I simply had this intuition.”

As he staggered through the debris underneath fractured balconies and shards of metal than hung precariously overhead he made his way, with the help of a few strangers, to the apartment block where he thought his son might have been staying to find it a pile of rubble and the sound of mechanical diggers operating under searchlights. He said “One of the rescue workers appeared to be illuminated by a divine halo and I followed him through the rubble shouting “Giuilo Giuilo”. Then he heard it a faint voice saying “Papa I’m here I can’t breathe.” The rescue was recorded on camera and reported extensively in the media including our own Times.

Dr Colengeli said this “I am a doctor and a rational man. But I can only say that all these signs and coincidences that led me to my son must have been sent from God. Searching for my son through the rubble of that night, I couldn’t help thinking of those words “Why do you seek the living among the dead”.

In the days after that first Easter there are a more than a dozen recorded accounts of the disciples meeting the Risen Christ. One of the most well-known and the most loved is the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 where Jesus, the stranger, draws alongside them and makes the journey to their home where he is “made known to them in the breaking of the bread” They were in a dark place, socially isolated and fearful and disillusioned. He walked with them. And he walks with us too- in the time of doubt, questioning, fear and uncertainty and he brings hope and reassurance to us.

Do join me on Sunday morning via Zoom at 10am when we will think further about that extraordinary “day return” to Emmaus. In the meantime, may you find reassurance in the unseen presence of the Risen Lord in your hearts and homes as we continue this strange Easter journey.