Joy of the Gospel

One of the most beautiful encounters with the Lord in the whole Bible

3rd Sunday of Easter

One of the most beautiful encounters with the Lord in the whole Bible. He joins them on the road. He walks with them. His birth name coming to the fore: Emmanuel, God-with-us. Something He did from childhood. Remember the return from his bar mitzvah in Jerusalem? His parents thought he was with the others on the road. Those who know teach us that this is Luke’s description of the mass. Service of the Word: Jesus talks to them from Scriptures. Service of the Eucharist: they recognise him in the breaking of the bread.

A powerful and intimate encounter. Jesus listening to them, giving them time to empty their heavy hearts. Then taking them by the hand and leading them through what they know to ever deeper insights. The more I look at them the sadder I feel. Mass today. When will it be like that, a powerful and intimate encounter with the Lord? For today we priests rule the mass with a steel hand. Thou shalt not this and thou shalt that. Because I rule. With all my years of training and all my priestly power I will protect the most holy sacrament from you lot. We are most powerful at mass, we priests. And with that power we strangle the last bit of Jesus out of it.

The most beautiful moments of quiet at mass where God keeps a surprise tailor made for each one seated around the “table of plenty”, as some hymn sings of mass. Did not our hearts burn in us? The heavy crosses of life each one is bearing as they stand, sit and kneel for an hour of Sunday mass, grateful that the Lord joins them on the road. And in my zeal for the house of the Lord and much too busy steering the pomp and ceremony of the holy sacrifice of mass, I the priest am wholly ignorant of the grace given and received as heart speaks to heart right there in front of me. How their hearts burn within them and how they recognise him. Recognise? Yes, of course There, in the tabernacle, see the red light? Exactly! Body, blood, soul and divinity, and I raise my hand and shout aloud a slogan. That’s real presence. Recognise him there.

They call it clericalism, but father who lords it over them it is not the only perpetrator. It is a mightily pervasive thing starting with competition for father’s attention and approval, and it creeps into our whole way of mass and church and all. Which makes today’s gospel the stuff of dreams, really pie in the sky and all, no? But it is real, Jesus walking with them, listening to their hearts heavy with grief. Speak to him they did. And how! They could then listen so much better when he spoke. Did not their hearts burn within them? When they saw him for who he is, their joy had no limit and could not keep them from running along that same road to go and tell the others. Run yes. Hop, skip and jump if you ask me.

For the Lord is here!
Magari! O, if it were like that!
And then I hear the voice of the Lord, quietly confident, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, only have faith in me.”