Today’s gospel relates how Jesus was made known to the disciples on the road to Emmaus “in the breaking of the bread.” Even as they are telling the story, Jesus has “a piece of baked fish” to eat with them. So many ways to discover Jesus Christ during the Easter Season! We go from empty tomb and folded burial cloths to Scripture lessons on the road to Emmaus and now a meal to prove Jesus was not a ghost. From these and other appearances, Jesus claims, “You are witnesses of these things.”
Jesus reveals himself to us, too, in multiple ways. Do you share these manifestations with others? Sharing your moments with Jesus makes you a witness. Your stories may be powerful means to open people’s minds to understand the Scriptures better and grow in their love for the Risen Lord.
The poem “My Silence Is the Lord” by Brother Paul Quenon begins “My silence is the Lord, / I listen, his silence speaks at all times. / When I listen not, my hearing is filled with words/ and my tongue takes to rambling.” We have all experienced the truth of this poem, I’m sure. Take some time today—outdoors if possible—to listen. May we meet the Lord.
Abigail Carroll’s poem “Creed” begins “I believe in the life of the word, / the diplomacy of food.” The power and life in Jesus’ words as he gratefully blessed the five loaves multiplied the bread until thousands had their fill. Did Jesus use the diplomacy of food in the multiplication of the loaves? Jesus was always a genius when dealing with people in effective and sensitive ways. Jesus made the boy who offered the loaves feel important. Jesus told the apostles to take charge of organizing the crowd and distributing the food—no small task. When the people discovered the miracle, they said, “This is truly the Prophet” and wanted to “carry him off to make him king.” Rather than cause a scene or disappoint, Jesus diplomatically slipped away, leaving the fragments behind. Apparently, diplomacy was the seasoning Jesus folded into the bread miracle.
Julian of Norwich wrote, “The fulness of joy is to behold God in everything.” The smell of plowed earth, the absoluteness of grace, deer tracks in snowmelt, futures free of the past, twirls of incense, children’s babble, wonder of breathing, contented hugs, contrite sobs. Behold God in everything. As today’s First Reading states, “He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.”
The poem “Rosing from the Dead” by Paul J. Willis tells of Hanna commenting, “Sunday Jesus will be rosing from the dead.” The narrator of the poem agrees that resurrection may have been like a red blossom “pulsing from the floor of the tomb.” The soldiers are “overcome with the fragrance, and Mary at sunrise mistakening the dawn-dewed Rose of Sharon for the untameable Gardner.” There are several “mistakes” in the Resurrection narratives: women who worry about rolling back the stone, two disciples who have no idea to whom they’re conversing on the road to Emmaus, disciples who think Jesus is a ghost. They just can’t seem to name Jesus Christ correctly. A poem written centuries later names Jesus “Rose.” A beautiful name, don’t you think?
The origin of communities of religious men and women lies in today’s First Reading. We read that the community of believers was of “one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” Not claiming anything as one’s own provides the factual basis of the vow of poverty. Whatever a religious sister or brother earns belongs to the whole community. Paychecks, for example, are direct deposit. (Of course, there are deeply spiritual aspects of the vow of poverty, but that would be another blog.) Holding everything in common is one path, among many, to be of one heart and mind.
Becoming one national province instead of four geographical provinces took several years in the making. Material things like buildings and technology were in the mix, but the emphasis was on the immaterial. How could we be one in heart, mind, mission, charism, prayer, service, and community bonds? Ask any Sister of Notre Dame, and I think we’ll all agree that we’re all in this together, one heart and mind.
In his conversation with Nicodemus Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Billions of years ago the Spirit gave life to creation, giving an unimaginable variety of creatures. And creation hasn’t stopped! The universe’s birth depicted in Genesis’ “Let there be light” and the scientists’ Big Bang are still evolving. Creation is born again and again and again. The universe is expanding with incredible distance and speed. All creation is being birthed and enlivened by the Spirit. Plants and animals have their own way of giving thanks: chirps, barks, mews, croaks, flowering, growing, exuding scents and tastes. What about us? Are we filled with thanks for our coming to birth? Do we display the gifts of the Spirit? God has given us everything. What will I give back today? I suggest giving God yourself—this tiny bit of creation. This is the best way to enter the Kingdom of God.
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Sometimes you might see images of a desert during Lent to remind us that just as Jesus went into the desert, so must we. Sand is constantly shifting due to wind or other factors. An image I have used with high school students at the time of a penance service was a tray of sand. Students could write something in the sand while waiting for their turn for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Perhaps it was a symbol, design, or letter of something they wanted to change in their lives. After receiving the sacrament, they could return to the sand if they wished, to again draw or write something significant. Students caught the point of the shifting sand; namely, we are in the process of reconciliation together. What we do and say has an impact on others. We have the power to help other improve their lives.
The Solemnity of Saint Joseph
A new baby becomes the center of attention in the parents’ lives. It would have been no different for Mary and Joseph at the birth of Jesus. Together they watched Jesus grow in wisdom, age, and grace. In his role as head of the family, Joseph four times heeded the message of an angel, each time keeping Mary and Jesus safe as they traveled from place to place to find a safe home, finally landing in Nazareth. There Jesus learned life skills, prayer, carpentry, obedience, and more. Joseph and Mary had all along accepted life as it is with all its surprises and disappointments. I imagine that Jesus learned to take life as it came, too, from the example of his loving parents. With Jesus at the center of their lives, God was at the center of Mary’s and Joseph’s lives. On this solemnity of Saint Joseph, let us pray that Joseph and Mary will aid us in making God the center of our lives.
Thursday of the Fourth week of Lent
In early centuries those who observed Lent were the catechumens and penitents. Members of these two groups had spent years in prayer, penance, and learning. When it was time for the penitents to return to the community and the catechumens to become part of the community, the last few weeks and the last three days before Easter were quite intense in the preparation. (These last days of preparation eventually became what we know as Lent and the Sacred Triduum.)
When I taught high school, I told the students, “Don’t get ashes.” Shocked, they wondered what I’d say next, and then I added, “unless you’re going to be like the penitents and catechumens.” Having studied the two groups, the students understood that ashes would signify that they were signing up for the rigors of fasting and prayer preceding entrance or re-entrance into the community.
How have you been like a catechumen this Lent? Did you study your faith more by attending a lecture or reading a spiritual book? Were you like a penitent as you sacrificed to atone for sin? Have you received the Sacrament of Reconciliation?