THE ROAD TO SOCIAL DISTANCING by Deacon Jerry Brennan
Imagine everything you believed in fell apart over night. Things were going very well and then the person you that put all your trust in was gone.
Confused and unsure you would reflect on what was next. Did I do something wrong. What did we miss, what sign should we have seen that this was coming? If you had a good friend no doubt you would reflect on the situation with them. If you could talk with a friend you might walk and talk about what was going on. My wife and I take many walks to do just that, with proper social distancing of course.
It must have been something like that for Cleopas and his companion. It was only a week ago when Christ came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Alleluia! Alleluia! The king is coming. But he was not the kind of king the people wanted. And the Temple leaders and the Roman leaders certainly did not want to risk that he was an earthly leader who would challenge their authority. In five days, it goes from hosana to crucify him! How could this happen? As Cleopas and his companion are walking and reflecting Jesus comes up. Was his post Resurrection look disguised, did they just not get the empty tomb, were they just too focused on their own problems and anxiety to see Jesus?
Any of these is possible and perhaps it was a combination of all of the above. Jesus lovingly and patiently explains how the prophets foretold all that happened to Jesus and how Christ had fulfilled all the prophesies of the prophets. It had been predicted that Jesus would die this way, that he would fulfill these ancient prophesies and therefore save the Jewish nation and all of humanity. Still they did not see.
As they sat down for dinner Jesus broke bread and then it was as if the light was turned on and they could see that it was the Christ and that he was Risen! They ran off, seven miles in the growing darkness to excitedly share the Good News with the disciples. Christ is Risen!
This Gospel is important on at least three different levels:
- It is a true story. Jesus met these two troubled and anxious disciples. He helped them to understand Scripture and why it was necessary for this to happen according to Scripture. He broke bread with them and shared the Eucharist with them. It is interesting that they did not recognize Jesus until he shared the Eucharist with them.
- It is the first post Resurrection Mass. The structure of the encounter with Jesus was a journey through Scripture and then a meal that was the Eucharist. When Christ instituted the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, just three days before this Gospel, Jesus said do this in memory of me. And here we have the first long discussion and encounter with his followers after the Resurrection and what does he do? He celebrates Mass on a Sunday! Clearly Mass is an important focus for our faith! Clearly the Eucharist is the culmination of the Mass. Clearly the Scripture and interpretation of Scripture should lead to and point to the Eucharist. We can only speculate as to why these two disciples did not recognize Christ by sight or teaching. In some way the Eucharist is necessary to accept Christ. In some way when Jesus is no longer present these two go off to spread the Good News. Do we do that at the end of Mass?
- As the last question suggests, this Gospel is also an instruction for us today. Many of our beliefs, if not about the faith, at least about the world in general have been shaken by the pandemic and recent economic events. Will things ever be the same? We might hope so? But do we see Christ in our midst? Do we long for him and ache in our hearts to receive him again. Has this crisis helped to strip all the superficial things in our lives and help to turn to Christ and, by whatever means we have; whether telephone or video meeting or prayer spread the Good News? Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed.