A survey of the parish of St. Monica reveals a “good news – bad news” scenario. There have been no fatalities in the parish due to the coronavirus. We have determined that only one parishioner has contracted the virus. That is good news. On the other hand, in talking with people in the neighborhood, there are two areas of concern. There are people in our neighborhood who are going hungry. There are many people suffering from anxiety and depression.
In many ways, this was the case of the two disciples walking on the road on their way to Emmaus. They had heard some astonishing news which should have given them hope. Still, they seemed somewhat depressed and downcast. Then suddenly, a person comes to walk with them. In the conversation with the two disciples, this stranger seems to lift their spirits. What was the special element that this stranger offered that seem to have such a positive effect?
The main element that Jesus Christ was offering them was connections. Connections in the story have several components. Let’s look at them. The first is the realization of the disciples that they were in a state of crisis and confusion. If you do not recognize the need for a savior, you do not need someone to save you. Recognizing the truth of your situation is a key component before you can make a connection to a better place.
The second thing that Jesus offered them was companionship. If you look at the entire story there were two types of companionship that Jesus offered them. One was the companionship of Jesus the person. The other was the companionship of Jesus in the breaking of bread or the Eucharist. As Catholics, we rely on this companionship of Christ in the Eucharist.
The other item that Jesus offered was catechesis. But notice, Jesus did not chide them on their lack of understanding. He instructed them and provided the information with care. Catechesis and instruction can only be effective when offered through a connection with the teacher and with a sense of charity.
Jesus combined the elements of companionship, connection with himself, the Eucharist, care, charity and catechesis. He did this amid crisis and confusion. Then the disciples suddenly achieved clarity. No one component has the power to be able to give them that inside. We need all the components working together. We can’t just read our Bible and expect that kind of deep clarity. We cannot simply say, “I’ll go to Mass on Sunday and then have no connection with Christ for the rest of the week.” The connections with Christ, the spiritual reception of the Eucharist, some form of formation and catechesis are components that need to be interwoven within the context of a daily spiritual life.
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many people are asking very good questions. What happens next? When will the church open up? What will be the phase-in approach once we are allowed to worship once again? What is going to happen with my job and my family? In other words, clarity is one of the items that people seem to be seeking. Like he did on the road to Emmaus, Jesus wants to give us that clarity.
But we have our part to do as well. We have to intentionally make those “connections” to Jesus Christ as we walk that “in-between phase” on our own particular Emmaus journey. Then our eyes can also be opened.