Today’s gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Easter, the account of the meeting of the two disciples with the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35) also occurred in Easter week and I commented on it then and displayed the well known depiction of it by Caravaggio. I don’t know who the artist is in this picture.
Many of you today will be joining in livestreamed Masses from our church or elsewhere (or both). I suspect we’re only at the beginning of working out what this means for our understanding of the Church and our prayer lives; in a way people react very differently. Some find it really helpful, others not so. Since the Emmaus story is really an early Eucharist, perhaps hearing it today, when most Catholics around the world haven’t been able to get to Mass physically since the middle of Lent, may be particularly poignant and even painful. I think there are two things in particular which this powerful and moving Scripture reading can say to us today.
Firstly, as I indicated in my earlier post, it’s partly about the Bible. Cleopas and his friend say that their hearts burned within them as Jesus, before they knew who he was, explained the Scriptures to them: this part of the account corresponds to the Liturgy of the Word in the Mass. While we can’t physically get to Mass, we should have a Bible in our homes; we can not only hear the readings read to us in livestreamed Masses, we can open the Bible and read the sacred texts. We’re in the middle of the special ‘Year of the Word’ so perhaps this is fortuitous at this time. I have reflected on this, drawing on this reading, in my regular column in the May edition of the Southwark diocesan newspaper ‘The Pilgrim’ which is now available online: CLICK HERE.
The second thing is that, reflecting on how the two friends recognise the Lord ‘in the breaking of bread’, we have the chance in this period to think about how we normally join in and participate in the Mass. Sometimes we learn the real value of something when we’re deprived of it (so for some this is true of many things at the moment). Going to Mass is perhaps something we take for granted; if we watch a Mass livestreamed we might actually be more attentive than we are in the building. We might not have the usual distractions (of course we might have new ones!) we may even be able to see or hear better (I realise it’s not always perfect but our system at the moment seems to be better than that in many churches and cathedrals). We know it’s not the same – especially as we can’t for receive Holy Communion; but it is of value to many of you and, at least on weekdays, many more of you than those who normally go to Mass during the week. But perhaps we’re being invited to consider what we normally do in Mass; Other questions might be: do we prepare ourselves normally for going to Mass as well as we can? Do we give thanks afterwards? Do we look at the readings before or after? How will our experience of the Mass affect us after we’re able to go to church again? Above all, does our experience of the Mass deepen our personal relationship with Jesus? Do we encounter him as the two friends do in this gospel story?