1 John 2:1-5a
|April 29-30, 2015, Third Sunday of Easter, Cycle B|
I'm sure everybody recognizes this Gospel passage from Luke as taking place at the end of the story of Jesus' encounter with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
So if you remember that story, we have Luke basically repeating the same scenario back in Jerusalem with all the disciples present. Given how short any of the Gospels are, any time anything is repeated, especially back to back as it is here, we probably should sit up and take notice. The framework for the two stories is basically this: when the disciples first encounter the risen Jesus they do not recognize him for who he really is at first.
On the road to Emmaus, the two disciples flat out fail to recognize Jesus when he first joins them. He then proceeds to open the scriptures for them, explaining all the passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that refer to the Messiah and how they point to Jesus. He then joins them at a meal and they finally recognize him in the breaking of the bread.
Here the disciples mistake the risen Jesus for a ghost and they are afraid. Jesus eats with them and they begin to understand who he really is. Jesus then opens their minds to understand the Scriptures, especially what they have to say about how Jesus would have to suffer, die and rise from the dead.
It is only when the disciples have started to understand the scriptures, and have shared a meal with Jesus that they are ready to be sealed with the Holy Spirit so they might be sent forth to witness to the Gospel.
I know that some of us older folk were led to understand the consecration or liturgy of the table to be the most important part of the mass. So much so that the legalistic among us had the notion that you could arrive at mass any time up through the gospel and it would still fulfill our obligation. The Church is pretty explicit now about the reality that the liturgy of the word is equally important to the liturgy of the table. This teaching is very much consistent with today's gospel story. In some sense we can say that the most important part of the mass is the dismissal, when we are sent forth to love God by loving one another. That is the purpose of the consecration and communion parts of the mass: to make us more fully into the body and blood of Christ so that we might be sent forth as effective witnesses to the good news, effective evangelizers. As we see in Luke's story, we cannot fully respond to Jesus' invitation to be his witnesses without understanding who he is as revealed by Scripture.
One of the most fascinating aspects of watching my children grow up was to see them, as they got older, become more and more curious about our family history. They wanted to pore through the photo albums and show the old super 8s and videos. As they brought significant others into the family, that is one of the first signs of a serious relationship: they would make them sit though album and video viewings, explaining in great detail who this was and what this event was all about. This kind of story telling is the most effective way of becoming a family.
The same is true for our family of faith. The Scriptures are our family album. They explain how it is that we can even begin to call ourselves a community that dares to become one as the body of Christ. Without understanding scripture we will never see Christ as he truly is, so there is little chance we will be able to “put on Christ” fully. Mass is not the time to learn Scripture. I was being a little facetious in the beginning when I said that we probably all recognize where this story fit in Luke. Sadly, many of us don't because we don't even read scripture, let alone study it.
I know I sound like a broken record when I bring up the fact that this is a critical time in our parish and collaborative life. Unless we are a vibrant, joyful incarnation of God's love, an effective Body of Christ, we cannot, nor should we survive as parish. As parish staff we are being intentional about putting the focus on those things that are necessary to become new evangelizing communities, and today's Gospel makes it clear that at the top of the list are knowing Scripture and gathering as community.
Last weekend our Generations of Faith session asked the question, would we recognize Christ if we encountered him. Luke's Gospel makes it clear that to answer that we have to know Scripture. If we don't know Scripture we won't know Christ and we certainly can't be the body of someone we don't know. So I urge you to take advantage of Generations of Faith, of bible study like the one Joyce led during Lent, or small faith groups who read and discuss scripture as ways of knowing Scripture. And then Luke's Gospel says we have to gather in community as the disciples did. Just coming to Mass on Sunday does not make us a strong community. Again, we have table fellowship built into Generations of Faith. Participating in ministries such as the Music ministry or Funeral Hospitality or taking advantage of the Social Committee offerings like the upcoming Parish Picnic are wonderful and necessary opportunities to begin to share our stories so we become a true family community.
I cannot overstate the importance of this moment in our parish life. I also do not want to understate the hope and joy I feel when I look out at this community. We are on the verge of becoming the Body of Christ that makes real everything we celebrate in this Easter season. But we cannot do it without you. Come and join us. Let us all be witnesses to these things.