Advent Challenge, Day 24
And so to conclude,
Luke 24: Who wants to say grace?
“Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened…That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made know to them in the breaking of the bread.” [Lk. 24:13, 33-35]
Over the years, I’ve noticed how easy it is to make a sharp bifurcation between the ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ aspects of Christmas. It’s easy to dutifully attend Mass, and then to leave religion behind whilst the real fun of Christmas dinner and opening presents begins. I know I’ve been guilty of making this distinction between life and liturgy, with the latter being just one thing amongst many rather than informing my entire celebration of Christmas.
In Luke’s story of the road to Emmaus [Lk. 24:13-35], I see an intersection between life and liturgy. The events on the road which Luke records contain some of the same elements as the Mass. Jesus opens the Scriptures to his disciples, in much the same way as we hear the word of God proclaimed and explained in the Liturgy of the Word. Luke explicitly states that the disciples recognised Jesus in the breaking of the bread [24:30-31, 35]. In the same way, we recognise the real presence of Jesus amongst us in the Eucharist. Finally, all this occurs in the context of fellowship, the journey of two companions on the road. Similarly, we gather together as the Body of Christ in liturgy to journey together in faith.
For the disciples en route to Emmaus, their encounter with Christ does not happen separately from the rest of their lives. Rather, Jesus meets them where they are, in sorrow and grief, and this encounter inspires and shapes their future lives of proclaiming his Gospel. This story helps me to try not to make such a sharp distinction between life and liturgy this Christmas. A practical way of doing this (at least for me) is by offering to say grace prior to Christmas dinner (however embarrassing it might be!).
Other things I noticed
- Some things never change. I noted on Day 1 of the Advent Challenge how fear was a common reaction to a message from God (http://catholic-community.org.uk/theSite/2013/11/30/advent-challenge-day-1/). This is still the case for some of the disciples [24:5, 37], no matter how many times God has told them not to be afraid!
- I wonder at the significance that, following his Resurrection, Jesus appears first to women [cf. 24:10]. The context in which Jesus lived was a largely male-dominated culture. Jesus once again shows the counter-cultural nature of his mission by coming to those considered lesser by society.
- What took place in the meeting between Jesus and Simon Peter, which Luke notes but doesn’t elaborate upon [24:34]? Paul also notes that Jesus appeared to Cephas (i.e. Peter; see Jn. 1:42) separately from the other disciples [1 Cor. 15:5]. I wonder if this meeting had significance in the development of Peter’s role as the head of the apostles? We will probably never know, but it is interesting to ponder!
And so concludes the Advent Challenge. I’d like to thank you all for following and for all your contributions; I hope it has been a fruitful experience for you. I’ll be back on the blog in the New Year, but until then, have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
“‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
And they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’” [Mt. 1:23]