By Fr. Rich, O.P.
Sometimes, throughout the Easter season, it is challenging to manage the story telling. There is not really a sequential laying out of events, and today’s Gospel is a wonderful example. Today, we revisit the third day after the Crucifixion, as we join two travelers en route to Emmaus. We are drawn back into the anguish of Jesus’ followers as they try to come to terms with what they believe to be unfulfilled promises.
Despite Jesus joining them on their journey, they are so self-engaged that they fail to recognize the Master. Even as he joins them on their journey, sharing Scripture with them, they still persist in their blindness. It is not until Jesus blesses and breaks the bread that their eyes, hearts, and minds receive the presence of their savior — at which time he vanishes.
As is often true in our own lives, we become so self-engaged that we fail to perceive the important events, people, or circumstances around us. This week our community was planning on celebrating The Venerable Father Augustus Tolton. That celebration has been postponed indefinitely, but there is no reason why we can’t deepen our knowledge of this saintly man: tolton.archchicago.org is the website connected to the Archdiocese of Chicago. Check it out.
The American bishops have developed a great website that offers daily readings for us to enter into for our prayer and study. They also offer a great variety of resources that assist and encourage us to become more familiar with our faith and the issues that challenge us.
It is not just those who are internet savvy that have options. Cracking open the Bible that has been sitting on our shelves has always been an option, never more than now. There has been a concerted effort to broaden programming, both network, cable and radio, designed to entertain and educate us. The telephone has become an important anchor in our days, as we reach out to reassure our families and friends that we are managing and that they too are safe. For the moment, it is a new reality, and our faith can play an important role in our living through it.
On the 22nd of April, we celebrated the 50th Earth day, and while our climates remain threatened, the sky is clearer, our seas and waterways cleaner and quieter, our cities breathing cleaner than has been the case in recent history. Is this perhaps an opportunity to glimpse what our future could be like post pandemic, if we chose to make it so?
If we return to Scripture, our Jewish brothers and sisters were offered any number of “wake up” calls as Yahweh reminded them of the covenants they entered into throughout history. If you read the Jewish testament, they will become quite evident. Even our own Christian scriptures, both in our Gospels and Letters, offer them to an attentive reader.
I am a firm believer that we always have choices, that our free will can be the greatest gift our Creator gave us, or the heaviest burden. How we approach it determines which. My news feeds are replete with stories of individuals who have discovered hidden “treasures” as they have begun to clean out spaces long ignored; with stories of imaginative responses to quarantine and social distancing; with accounts of the many small acts of kindness and support that used to be lost in the noise of the “important” stories of violence, hatred and abuse, murder and mayhem. Those challenges still exist, always will, but the focus on the kinder, gentler, braver, compassionate side of our humanity is hopeful.
So, father pastor, one might ask, “What does this all mean?” In closing, I offer a thought that I’m sharing with our graduates at the Baccalaureate Mass this weekend. “Stay strong, be bold and gentle, hold on to your faith and God’s love. And know that Newman will always be your home and our community always praying for you!”
Peace be with you! Do not be afraid!