It has been almost three months since I wrote my first blog, and as I sit down to write I am overcome by how much our world and our lives have changed in such a short time. We have been challenged to live out the passion and death of our Lord not only in our Holy Week and Easter Liturgies, but also in a very real way in our daily lives. Our ordinary lives have been turned upside down by a new virus from a distant city in different country, and we wonder if life will ever be the same again.
There are parallels between our current reality and the lives of Jesus’s disciples after his Resurrection. Readings from the Gospels offer
some important lessons for us today.
In the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday after Easter (Jn 20: 19-31), also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, the disciples were huddled in a locked room for fear of the Jews when Jesus miraculously stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Three times in this passage Jesus greets the disciples with this phrase. Today, not unlike the disciples, we find ourselves confined to our homes in fear—fearful of the coronavirus, fearful about being unemployed, fearful of uncertainties about our economy and our future. In this midst of this current crisis, Jesus offers us the same greeting of peace. In every moment of every day, the Risen Lord is present in our midst to dispel the darkness of fear.
In last Sunday’s Gospel for the Third Sunday after Easter (Luke 24: 13-35), we witnessed another possible response to fear. Rather than hiding behind locked doors, these disciples were running away. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were fleeing Jerusalem, trying to put some distance between themselves and all that had happened there. Once again Jesus joins his disciples, travels with them, and listens as they describe all that had happened in the last few days. All along the journey, they did not recognize him, but something within them urged them to invite him to stay with them. While they were at table, he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. It was then that they finally recognized him. We do not hear the end of the story in Sunday’s Gospel, but these disciples hurried back to Jerusalem, to that upper room where the other disciples were gathered. They shared their story with the others, and suddenly, Jesus appeared again in their midst. Jesus greets when with those same beautiful words, “Peace be with you.”
We might ask ourselves, “Who were these disciples on the road to Emmaus?” They were pilgrims, travelling along the road of life. But the problem is they were heading in the wrong direction. They were running away from the mystery of God’s awesome activity unfolding. They had not yet understood that Jesus was the Way, the Road itself, that leads to fullness of life.
In three of the four Gospels, the Risen Jesus appears to Mary and the women first. Then in Mark and in Luke, he appears to the disciples on the road before making an appearance to Peter, James, John and the others. So again, we ponder, “Who were these disciples?”
They were disciples but not the significant or distinguished members of the group. They were ordinary, faithful disciples. They represent us. They are you and the person sitting next to you. They are our families, our friends, our neighbors, and all the ordinary people all over our planet who are trying to make sense out of a world that has suddenly gone off the tracks.
For these two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the world they had believed in seemed to be crumbling right before their eyes. Those in positions of power and authority would not listen. And, if they did listen, they did not understand. They had crucified the Lord of Glory. They laid him in the tomb, hopefully to be forgotten.
These Gospel stories parallel so much of the reality that we are living through today.
As I sit here sheltering at home in my own “upper room,” afraid of what is going on around me, I find myself yearning to hear those words that the disciples heard those many years ago, “Peace be with you.”
Jesus’ message to us today is the same—”Open your eyes, and see me. Open your ears, and hear me. I am here. I am with you always. Do not be afraid. I walk this path with you.”
By Sister Janet Marie Flemming, OSB