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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
General…

PLAYING CLEOPAS AND THE ANONYMOUS DISCIPLE AT MASS – THE EMMAUS EXPERIENCE

THE WALK WITH JESUS to Emmaus left in me an impression of Mass, as a journey that should leave weary spirits inflamed after every final benediction. Cleopas and the other anonymous disciple were leaving behind the realities of Jerusalem for their comfort zone of Emmaus when Jesus decided to join them. They, like other disciples, had just woken up to the reality that their hope of earthly reign and bliss had been truncated. Their supposed champion had just been humiliated and slain, with no form of military or miraculous resistance. In their minds, being more of human could have dismissed Jesus as another impostor, who came with lots of promises, but ended up in disappointment.They might have taken to walk back to their lives under the cover of the dark. It was more of a walk of defeat devoid of humility and divine submission.

 Reading the story over and over again, the sequence of the script as it finally unfolded to its climax, impress on me a reflection of the wisdom of the fathers of the Church in determining the flow and harmony of the Mass. The characters and events that Jesus pieced together to demonstrate his Easter announcement on the way to Emmaus further make the arrangement of the Mass more divinely configured than it had ever been to me. For me, every Mass should be an Emmaus experience re-enacted daily.

For the purpose of this commentary, I will try to place the walk to Emmaus and the Mass side-by-side to draw out some striking similarities. 

Cleopas and the anonymous disciple represent a forum where “two or more are gathered”, and the common interest are all about Jesus. They were worried by the incidents that had rented the airspace. They were walking in fear, their hope dashed, and the more they talked about it, the more confused they were. In their human capacity, they must have tried to analyze the events with the hope of rationalizing it, but they couldn’t wrap their heads around how Jesus would have died after promising them so much.

Like Cleopas and his friend, we face, daily, incidents that question our faith and hope in the promises of God. We wonder why God will allow some bad things to happen in our world. Like the whole events of the Passion week, the world is filled with so much betrayal of trust; denial of the truth; misplacement of judgment; unprovoked hatred; pains unspeakable meted out to the weak and defenseless people. We wake up with the hope that people who had earn our trust to bring us a new life of freedom will not just submit themselves to be flogged, shackled and died. We attend the Mass with so much questions begging for answers. The beginning of the journey to Emmaus, before Jesus joined the company was full of unanswered questions, doubt, resignation and confusion. Amid these state of mind Jesus presented himself, and the walk, initially to despair and confusion changed direction for a place of renewed hope and clarity.

The walk back to hope and becoming a true witness began with Jesus telling them, and us, how slow we are to believing the prophets. He began to unravel the Gospel as being concealed in the Old Testament. While he was doing this, the eyes of the disciples were not opened to recognize Christ as their co-traveler. Some may think their spiritual and physical blindness was caused by their disappointment. Our problems and fear of tomorrow more than often overwhelm us and we are found standing with Cleopas on our way to Emmaus. Jesus, knowing that our physical sight cannot be restored without the restoration of our spiritual eyes, began the unveiling of self from the revelations of the past.

At Mass, we begin our journey with Christ with Liturgy of the Word. At this Liturgy, the Church grows in wisdom as the divine covenant is announced. The three readings connect all the dots of our history of salvation. The homily explains the connection, and for those who avail themselves an active participation, their hearts are inflamed. The Liturgy of the Word is presented to dispel the fear and the feeling of helplessness. It opens our spiritual eyes to see beyond what our mind cannot conceptualize and comprehend. It answers all our questions of why things don’t fall together in place just like we have wanted it. Simply put, it explains to us, God’s will. Active participation at the Liturgy of the Word must leave us asking for more by asking Jesus to come into our house, our heart like Cleopas and the other disciple did. How can we approach the breaking of the bread if we miss the liturgy of the Word? Could that be the reason the Church admonishes us to stay away from the sacramental communion if we do not partake in the Liturgy of the Word? Can we truly admit to have attended Mass if we miss the Liturgy of the Word?

Having renewed their hope, and opened their spiritual eyes, Jesus began the process of opening their physical eyes. Overwhelmed with the worries of this world and the weight of expectations, we are often too blind to see God in everything around us. Rather than applying the Kingdom’s approach to rationalize and solve our challenges, we tend to use the imperfect approaches of human intellect that do not find conformity with God’s Will. For the sacrifice of the Mass to be perfect, our physical eyes must be opened.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is embodied in sacramental signs, which are necessary in bid to have our eyes opened. At the breaking of the bread, the full vision of Christ is emphasized. In this liturgy, we renew the divine covenant, and the church grows in holiness. Partaking in the Liturgy of the Eucharist and sharing in the broken bread make our Mass perfect. Having had their spiritual eyes opened in the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist brought to perfection the essence of the whole journey.

The fusion of the two Liturgies was all that culminated into the two disciples racing back to Jerusalem to witness to Christ resurrection. Jerusalem was the arena that is full of intimidation and hate. It was the place where faith is tried and innocent blood is shed. It is also the place where saints and martyrs are made. In today’s analogy, it represents the world. The journey to Emmaus must end up in Jerusalem. Saints are not made in the church or grottos; they are made on the streets, at our places of work, and our places of residence. With our hearts inflamed and our eyes open, we cannot afford to sleep at Emmaus. The whole world must feel our renewed vigour and excitement.At the final benediction, the priest, representing Christ, tells us to go back to the world (Jerusalem) to be a true witness. To justify the time we have spent with Christ, we are called to do just that as Christians.

 


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