Fr. Tracy O’Sullivan, O.Carm. Weekly Reflection will be back soon.
We have seven weeks in the Easter Season. The Resurrection stories and the Gospel reflections all invite us to enter into the mystery of the risen Christ. It is a journey from the head to the heart.
Today’s story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is especially heartfelt. I would like to develop one point of this very rich story.
The two disciples tell the story to Jesus. For them it is a profound tragedy. They are frustrated and at a loss. Their story is without faith and hope. In particular, they pass over the message of the women with the account of the empty grave and the angels.
Jesus tells the same story back to them. He presents it in the context of the Scriptures. For Him it is a story of faith and hope. “Then they said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Lk 24:32)
In this experience we have a fundamental insight into the Christian life. We take the story and our life experience.Sooner or later, we run up against the common human fate of broken dreams, love rejected and our basic mortality. We try to cover all the contingencies but in the end we are not ready for what life has in store for us. Who could ever really dream of the coronavirus and its impact on our world? We are like the disciples whose dreams of great things coming from Jesus, the one who would be their savior. Yet, in their vision of life, there was no room for the rejection and Passion and Crucifixion on that fateful weekend.
Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we have to bring faith to the story. With faith we enter the story of the Scriptures and slowly we see God is with us all along. We begin to see the Resurrection for what it is. Love is the victor. All is not lost. Indeed, the victory is ours when we walk with Jesus.
Thomas Merton has a beautiful definition of prayer: Prayer is yearning to be in the presence of God, a personal understanding of His Word, knowledge of His will and the capacity to hear and obey. This is what happened to the disciples in their encounter with Jesus. They were walking away from life. They were fleeing the difficulty of their broken dreams. The Presence and the Word of God opened the eyes of their heart to the fire of love that was there all the time. Now, they were ready to return to Jerusalem and do God’s work.
The power of deep personal prayer can do the same for us. We can begin to see reality as pregnant with hope and new possibilities once we encounter the Risen Christ in deep and trusting faith. We need the Word of God to enter into the gracious presence. We need the Word of God to give us direction on the road so we too can find our way back to the Jerusalem that is God’s loving plan for us.
The Second Sunday of Easter
My Dear Friends in Christ,
When you think about it, the disciples had a really devastating seventy two hours from the washing of the feet on Thursday to the visit of the Risen Christ on Sunday evening. Of course, Peter leads the way in the trauma department.
Wash my feet! Never! Then my hands and face also! I will be willing to die ratherthan deny you! I do not know the man! Peter”went out and wept bitterly.” (Lk.22:62) “The doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.” (Jn 20:19) It was a short trip from total arrogance to total devastation.
They were engulfed in shattered dreams and wrapped up in fear and pain. Slowly, they realized the events of the weekend not only exposed them as losers for wasting three years of their life chasing an illusion but now, they were in danger of doing time in prison and maybe even losing their lives.
Crisis management did not give them much time to let the depth of their loss sink in. Likewise, they were unable to see with any clarity the extent of their personal cowardice in their flight and rejection after three years of intimacy at the feet of Jesus. Self knowledge does take a long time!
Then, in the midst of the pain, the fear, the loss and utter confusion, they see Him and hear, “Peace be with you.” Jn 20:19.
They had a lot of experience with the upside down world of Jesus. However, nothing prepared them for this. In an instant defeat and failure are now victory and triumph. Darkness is now light. Abandonment leads to embrace. Sin and denial are washed away in love and healing. Indeed, “Peace be with you.”
No wonder the Church invites us to ponder and pray about this awesome mystery of the Resurrection for the next seven weeks. There is a lot to take in.
If we are willing to dig deep enough, we gradually will see the story ofour lives in the vulnerability of the disciples. We will see the dominance and control of our fear and anxieties giving way to hope. We will see and embrace our God’s forgiveness, “Whose sins you shall forgiveare forgiven them”. (Jn 20:23)
Indeed, Christ is risen! Alleluia! When we bring this Mystery into this deepest reality of our lives, nothing will ever be the same again.
Like the disciples, we are loved in our brokenness. We are accepted in our weakness. Slowly, we will get a glimmer of the love Jesus has for us. It is without limit or condition. It is a treasure we can hardly grasp. Whether we grasp it or not, the goal of our spiritual journey in life is to let the power and beauty of this love transform us into a new creation just as it did for the disciples.
Easter Reflection from Fr. Tracy O’Sullivan, O.Carm.
In the Gospel of St.Matthew, the Resurrection is not a Hollywood ending. It not a guarantee that all are problems will pass away. It is not an easy solution to the burden of life’s unending and relentless encounter with sin, injustice,sickness, aging and even death.
What the Resurrection is, however, is another glorious stroke in the portrait of a loving God that began with the description of Emmanuel, God with us, in chapter one. (Mt.1:23)All throughout Matthew’s Gospel we have this growing exposure of a God of love and life: Emmanuel.The entire Gospel is of one piece.
So, in the Passion, we have on one level a picture of Jesus as victim of injustice and hatred andrejection. On another levelwe have an underlying theme of God’s plan of love at work in spite of the apparent victory of evil. In the Garden Jesus prays that this cup pass but the Father’s will is clear. On the Cross, Scripture is sighted to reveal that this suffering was part of God’s final plan to set forth the true nature of the Messiah. Here is our God who shares our pain and loss. Hereis our God who shares the perversion of our suffering in this valley of tears. Here is our God who enters into the depth of ourultimate anguish,death. This is God’s answer to the ever recurring human questions, How can this be? Where is God in the cruelty of war or nature’s devastation or the death of our infants and the loss of our youth to drugs or the pervasive pain of Alzheimer’s and the unending litany of other imponderables of our journey?
Yet the story continues only to open up the final and true expression our reality. This is the revelation of life free of all the consequences of the failure in the Garden of Eden. This is final word of our loving God: life wins out! Love has the last word!
This whole Gospel is woven together to unveil Emmanuel (God with us). This Gospel is a revelation of love without limit or condition. This message of Good News proclaims the final word of God. Itis not sickness or suffering. It is not division or violence. It is reconciliation and peace. It is pardon and love. It is the fullness of truth and the ultimate invitation into life and love, Emmanuel!
Our challenge is to realize this is not just information to know but a deep and engrossing mystery only open to us by an acceptance in faith of Christ Crucified and Christ Risen. Our entrance into this mystery of love and life begins when we struggle to find direction and meaning in our life by accepting Matthew’s message of Emmanuel! This message leads us to the great truth of Easter, Alleluia!! He is Risen!
When I was young, Easter meant very little to us. The really big thing was Lent. The great time was at noon on Holy Saturday when we could eat candy and indulge inwhatever else we gave up for Lent. This was an incredible distortion of the Church’s message.
Today, we have another distortion of Easter. The big day is Good Friday. For many, if not most, Easter is an afterthought in much of our popular religious practice. The point we need to understand is thatwe are an Easter People!!
The Church’s teaching is very clear. The Death and Resurrection are one event! We take thirteen weeks to celebrate, in the most solemn and beautiful way,the central reality of our faith, the Pascal Mystery. This one event includes the Passion, Death, ResurrectionandAscension of Jesus Christ. This same event is celebrated and experienced in every Mass.
We take a good chunk of the Church year to recall this story. However, it is so much more than a history lesson.
In the thirteen weeks from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost we have three seasons of the Church Year. The main purpose of the prayer and penance of Lent is to prepare us to be spiritually ready to celebrate the three holy days of the Triduum, Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. The seven weeks of the Easter season are a time of prayer and reflection on the central reality of our faith, the Pascal Mystery, Christ Crucified and Christ Risen.
Here is the bottom line of all this material. The Church understands the Triduum, and the liturgy in general, in this way. It is not a reenactment. It is not simply a telling of the story no matter how solemn. We do not repeat history. This is what the Church teaches. We celebrate the Mystery and in the celebration we are present to the Mystery, the one and singular and historical event. The power of the Spirit in the Church makes us present to the saving event, the Pascal Mystery.
The celebration is the power and presence of God’s saving grace coming into our lives here and now. This one saving event is not broken into parts. It is the Mystery of the saving action of God in Jesus Christ. We are entering into the deepest reality of our present life. We are experiencing here and now in our worship the presence of the saving love calling us to life. When we receive communion the minister does not say this is a remembrance of the Body of Christ. The words state the reality. This is the Body of Christ!
So this week we have the most special of all the most sacred events in our liturgy. This is the most hallowed time to celebrate, and in the celebration not only recall, but be present to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is what liturgy does. It brings us into the presence of the Pascal Mystery that we celebrate. We do not repeat it. We enter into it. This why we are Easter People!