Easter 03, Year A
- This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn.13:35)
A 1955 entry in Dag Hammarksjöld’s Markings (© 1964 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., and Faber and Faber, Ltd.) reads:
- Even in the most intense activity, this feeling of unreality—in you who have never come
- “close” to another. The old fairy tale: the one who has been made invisible or transformed
- into a beast can only regain his human shape through somebody else’s love.
This saying reminds me of another saying I heard for the first time some forty years ago that said something to the effect that one shouldn’t just do something, but should rather stand, sit, or be there.
There is more to life, in other words, than just doing something or being engaged in a flurry of activities.
Such activities may very well be motivated by the instinct of self-preservation and survival, as could have been the case with the two disciples who left Jerusalem for Emmaus, disappointed disciples who would rather run away from the place of defeat and danger and might have perhaps been as fearful as those who locked themselves up somewhere “for fear of the Jews.” The activities may be due also to “worldly anxiety and the lure of riches.” But whichever the motivation behind the activities, they either lead one to fall away from the word or bring about in one the choking of the word unto unfruitfulness and one’s turning down the word of invitation to the great feast (Mt. 13:21-22, Mk. 4:17-19 and Lk. 8:13-14; Mt. 22:5 and Lk. 14:18-20).
Intense activities have their way of making even believers foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke. Was Thomas so caught up perhaps in doing his own thing, and thus was absent when Jesus appeared in the evening of resurrection Sunday to the gathered disciples, and was consequently skeptical? The two Emmaus-bound disciples, looking downcast and disappointed because the one on whom they pinned all their hope and trust did not apparently live up to expectation—couldn’t their conversation and debate in order to make sense of all that had happened to Jesus have been so intense there was no way for them to recall the repeated prediction that it would be necessary for the Christ to suffer and enter into his glory? Those slow of heart to believe apparently included the women, too, who could not wait till it was morning so they could go to Jesus’ tomb; “these women did not go believing in resurrection. They did not go to check and see if the tomb was empty. The fact that they took spices along to anoint the decaying body shows what they expected to find, and this despite six resurrection predictions in Luke” (InterVarsity Press Commentary at www.biblegateway.com).
Yet fortunately for the intensely active, who are only left feeling all the more poignantly how unreal everything seems to be, including even those who lose themselves in a passion for buildings, in organization, or in an endless round of banquets and speeches, committee meetings and fund drives (cf. Fulton J. Sheen, The Priest Is Not His Own), there is a remedy available in real presence and loving communion. Jesus stands, sits or is there for anyone who stands, sits or is there with him. He is there—if I may use St. Augustine’s words—calling, shouting and breaking through deafness, flashing, shining and dispelling blindness. Thus, he called Mary of Magdala by name so she would no longer mistake him for a gardener but recognize him instead as her Teacher (Jn. 20:16). So also Jesus opened scriptures to the two disciples and made their hearts burn within them while they spoke to them on the way. Finally, he opened their eyes and made them recognize him when, sitting down at table with them, “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.” Moreover, he took the initiative at reconciliation, giving the greeting of peace to those who ran away when he needed them most and even denied him. He then showed them his hands and feet, inviting them to touch him, and, for good measure, asked for something to eat and subsequently ate in front of them the piece of broiled fish he was given.
If many resurrection appearances are any indication, then, it is in the intimacy of fellowship—of real presence and communion—that Jesus is recognized. Loved by Jesus and enabled by that same love both to love him and to love their brothers and sisters, as he has loved them, the disciples are known to be truly so and they become genuine witnesses of the resurrection. Their sharing their bread with the hungry, their sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, their clothing the naked, and their not turning their back on their own who, like themselves, are subject to fear, worldly anxiety and the lure of riches—all this attests as well that the one known before the foundation of the world is finally revealed now too for them as their light that breaks for like the dawn (cf. Is. 58:7-8). Having courageously taken the path back to Jerusalem, the path to life, and standing now, sitting, or being close to Jesus and in solidarity with their brothers and sisters, the disciples’ wounds are healed, and they are surely saved from sin and its dehumanizing results, its wages and remnants.