Finding God in the ordinary
Posted: Thu, 15 Apr 2021 14:03
Reflecting on the gospel for 3rd Sunday of Easter (Luke 24:35-48) , Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB encourages us to find God in the everyday activities we all share. Photo: Carrie Cai on Pixabay
Our gospel from Luke opens today with the missionary journey of the two Emmaus disciples on their way back to Jerusalem—the place of pain, suffering and death has become a place of glory. Like Mary of Magdala, 'the Emmaus Two' cannot keep their meeting with Jesus a precious and personal secret: good news has to be SHARED.
After the experience with Thomas last Sunday, we are reminded that Jesus still needs to help his friends to come to terms with the reality of faith. This directs us to what true faith is all about: we are all on a journey of faith that is not instantaneous. Even though he offers a 'peace' that only God can bring, the disciples thought 'they were seeing a 'ghost.' In the journey of faith, we will have ups and downs—the Covid-19 experience has highlighted this experience for each of us. When we lose a loved one, it is a challenge to see the glory in the pain; our faith is fully tested.
Jesus offers the challenge to his beloved disciples, 'touch me and see for yourselves, a ghost has no flesh and bones as you see I have'—this reinforces his encounter with Thomas and points to the reality of resurrection. For three years these disciples had followed Jesus; they saw his miracles and heard his words. Along with Peter, they did not want a Messiah of pain and death—the Messiah of glory was far more acceptable. This dream was shattered on Calvary Hill and they hid in their self-imposed lockdown in the Upper Room. Jesus has washed their feet. He had told them how much he loved them. He has told them they must learn to wash each other's feet, that they must learn to be givers and not takers, that they have been chosen to bring the message that he came, to bring it to the whole world. He came with a message of compassion and forgiveness, of self-sacrifice, of caring, of building a community on the love of God and the love of each other.
For many years, my regular Saturday morning ritual in Bootle was to have breakfast with the then Head of RE in our local Salesian school. It was a chance to look back on the week and plan for the weeks ahead. Even when we were about to take children to enjoy the fun that Alton Towers offers, we would make time to share that breakfast experience. Today, Jesus offers his disciples that opportunity to break the fast together. It is so simple and ordinary; Jesus, risen from the dead, was still someone you could talk to. He was not someone with airs and graces. He was hungry and accepted what food they had, grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. It was so casual, so normal, so informal and so ordinary despite being an encounter with glory.
I was blessed to have wonderful scripture professors while I studied theology; Michael T Winstanley SDB and Megan McKenna helped me to understand the nuances and depth of scripture, but, more importantly, they have helped me to PRAY scripture. A good study of the gospels should identify all the places where we see the human touch of the divine Jesus. This can help us to draw closer to Jesus in prayer; if we had known the Lord in person when he was ministering in Palestine, we would have seen how gentle a person he was, that he had no edge or side to him, and that he was easy to talk to. As we read the gospels, we see how deep his love for others was. It is the task of the preacher to convey that deep love and appreciation in the homily so that it can become real.
From this simple breakfast meeting between the risen Jesus and his disciples, a whole new movement of faith began; Jesus inspires these ordinary men and women to start anew, as 'he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.' This still needs to happen every Sunday at mass, so, no pressure on your deacon or preacher then!
Jesus is waiting for you. You can tell him everything. You do not have to hide anything. Class distinctions mean nothing to Jesus. Jesus is waiting for you to approach him. 'Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.' This means that, when we look at each other, we must look at each other the way she or he is. We must treat each other the way we are, not just solitary individuals being nice to each other. We are people who are filled with the life of God in an intimacy that will last for all eternity.
I hope that today will give you some opportunity to share some good news: a child's progress in school; someone you know coming out of the ICU ward; you managed to make that perfect loaf of bread! Whatever your 'good news' is, the Lord is asking you to share it over breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a 'cheeky cuppa'.
Can I offer this day to Him as a love-gift, even though there seems nothing of any eternal value to which I can point? Nothing but a part-way clean house, half-finished laundry, shopping done, and story time with a child. Serving in the shadows rather than the limelight can be one of the most challenging parts of our Christianity.
Finding God in grandeur and glory is perhaps easy for those who want to relegate faith to an hour on a Sunday; Jesus is offering us the challenge to find God in the ordinary—just like sharing a chaotic and noisy breakfast. Ruth Calkin pus it well in her poem, 'I Wonder':
You know, Lord, how I serve You
With great emotional fervour
In the limelight.
You know how eagerly I speak for You
At a women's club.
You know how I effervesce when I promote
A fellowship group.
You know my genuine enthusiasm
At a Bible study.
But how would I react, I wonder
If you pointed to a basin of water
And asked me to wash the calloused feet
Of a bent and wrinkled old woman
Day after day
Month after month
In a room where nobody saw
And nobody knew.
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB