Saturday, April 29, 2017

Walking with the disciples on the road to Emmaus

The 'Thinking Anew' column which appears in The Irish Times today.

Michael Commane
In the first sentence in tomorrow's Gospel (Luke 24: 13 - 35) Luke tells the reader that two of Jesus's disciples were on their way to Emmaus, and they were talking about all that had happened. For them it was a conversation in a time of crisis. Jesus was walking beside them and they do not recognise him.

Those two men spoke about the suffering and death of Jesus and then how the women who had visited the tomb found that his body was not there. It must have been an interesting conversation. 

Luke goes on to tell us that it was in the breaking of bread that they recognised him. They recognised the risen Lord.

Sensational events, certainly.

It's 50 years since I sat the Leaving Certificate examination in Dublin.  Indeed, our Synge Street class celebrated the event at this year's past pupil reunion dinner. Fifty years is not a short span of time in anyone's life. Much has happened in the intervening years. Lots to reminisce about.

The conversation dominating the Irish media in recent days has all to do with the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital. While that conversation was taking place, the Citizens’ Assembly was issuing its findings on its deliberations on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

And while opposing sides talk, discuss, shout and argue about such issues in Ireland, Lara Marlowe in this newspaper last week wrote about how the French election campaign 'stinks'. 

That same weekend extra police were called out in Cologne to keep opposing sides apart as the right-wing AfD party conference took place in that great city on the Rhine. Last week a police officer was shot dead in Paris, a prisoner was executed in Arkansas.

Every week there is untold suffering and pain. We simply change the television channel and move on. 

All the time the world is watching Russia, China and the United States. Perhaps the world will always be in a “state of chassis” as Captain Boyle said. But in recent days and weeks, there appears to be extra random levels of chaos.

A woman called Brenda from Bristol spoke for many of us when a TV reporter told her that Theresa May had called a general election she replied spiritedly: “You're joking, not another one?” 

Everyone has an opinion on everything. How does the world hold together in such an environment? 

Who controls the levers of power? Who sets the trends? Who wins out?

The Dominican Order, of which I am a member, was founded by St Dominic 800 years ago. And it seems one of the reasons that made him do what he did was to bring together a group of people who would be able to live and talk about the Gospel in such a way that it would make sense to people. 

How well do Christians do that today?  How possible, how real is it to live and talk about resurrection?

Is it possible to make sense of anything in these days of turmoil and palpable anger?

On occasion, I am embarrassed by the “leadership style'” of the Catholic Church. I keep thinking we are not speaking a language that makes sense or could ever nudge people towards thinking about resurrection. Human forms of control and power are not the vocabulary of the resurrection. Why is it that the Christian churches so often seem to be in collusion with right-wing reactionary groups? The life of Jesus was so different.

How can we talk a language that makes sense of resurrection? It is extremely difficult. Pious words, 'holy thoughts' on resurrection are empty words to so many of us in the times in which we live. But it is significant that it was through the breaking of bread, and open and honest discussion that those two disciples on the road to Emmaus came to realise that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Too much of our talk and action has to do with power and control. Suffering, death and resurrection make for another reality that certainly can concentrate the mind. Surely our prayers should help us realise that today we are those disciples on that road to Emmaus.



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