Sunday, 8 May 2011
3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A, Shaftesbury
In all of our Easter Gospels we hear of a great deal of movement and running. In today's we heard about how the two disciples, after a long walk, and despite the fact that it was then nighttime, and no doubt dangerous to travel, hurried all the way back to Jerusalem. In each of the recorded appearances of Our Risen Lord, His appearance produced a radical change in the persons He appeared to. And the question of what exactly that change was, is a question of great importance if we are to understand the relevance of these appearances for us today.
One thought that can help to focus us on the nature of that change, is to think about the one great person that Gospels do NOT record Jesus appearing to, and that is His mother Mary. And it is particularly relevant for us to do so in this Month of May, the month dedicated to Our Lady.
Most Catholic saints and scholars down the ages have argued that, even though the Gospels don't record it, Jesus did actually appear to Our Lady, and did so before He appeared to anyone else, and I think that would be only natural. Any mother would want her son to appear to her, and being the perfect son, I'm sure that Jesus did appear to His mother.
But others argue that there was no NEED for Our Lord to appear to Our Lady, because her faith was so strong that she knew He would rise from the dead, she didn't NEED to see Him the way that the others did. And Pope John Paul II refers to this theory in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope. The Blessed Virgin Mary had solid hope, she had pondered everything in her heart (as the Gospels repeatedly tell us), and she KNEW He would rise again.
One thing we can be certain of, if Our Lord did appear to her, it was an appearance unlike the other encounters: An event of great joy, but not one that radically changed Our Lady.
In contrast, the appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus had a dramatic effect. We heard their own words of where they had placed their own hopes: in a worldly political messiah who would save them in a worldly way. Christ had to explain the whole of the prophets to them in order to make it clear what He had REALLY come to do.
Their hope was changed by the appearance of Our Lord, to a hope in something greater still. The eternal hope of Our Lord Himself.
For ourselves, that should raise the question of where it is that we put our own hope. Do we live for day to day hopes of passing worldly pleasures? Or is the hope of our lives underwritten by the everlasting and eternal hope of Christ? Because the society we live in today still looks to a fulfilment and hope that is oriented around this world alone, as if this world alone could satisfy our desires.
Our Lady knew better. From the moment that the Angel Gabriel appeared to her and asked her to be the Mother of God Himself, she knew that true hope was to be found in the child that she was called to bear, and it was pondering on that that enabled her to keep faith and hope even at the foot of the Cross.
The example of Our Lady shows us what the Risen Lord had to explain so fully to the men on the road to Emmaus, shows us the dramatic change of worldview that happened in each person that Jesus appeared to: the change to realising that the true hope of the world is to be found in Christ Himself.
He Himself is the one that fulfils every promise and prophecy and expectation of the human heart. Our faith and hope in the person of Christ, God among us, our true salvation, the one who triumphs over sin, evil and suffering, is the only hope that puts all other hopes into a true perspective.
And that same Christ, the one who is still our hope today, who came to those disciples in the breaking of bread, will come us here today in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass.