When I know it’s my turn to write one of these Jesus, Justice, Joy articles, I try to be more cognizant of things, people, occurrences in my everyday life that directly speak to the subject at hand. I know if I’m patient and observant, I will have no problem encountering what God wants me to write about. Sometimes it takes a bit for the point of the article to take shape and sometimes it slaps me in the face. The last two days have been face-slappers.
First, a bit of set-up…
The subject of this week’s article is Jesus. To lay a foundation for this reflection, I invite you to read yesterday’s Gospel, the famous story of the journey of two of Jesus’s disciples, from Jerusalem to Emmaus. As the story goes, the disciples were headed away from Jerusalem, where they had just seen Jesus, their master, teacher, friend, and Lord, executed by way of the most humiliating and cruel method the Romans had at their disposal, crucifixion. The disciples were deflated and distraught. Jesus begins walking with them, but they don’t recognize him at first. Over the next several hours (presumably) , Jesus says and does lots of Jesusy things: He journeys with them, he teaches them, he challenges them, he sets their hearts on fire, and he breaks bread with them. Finally, just as they finally recognize him in the breaking of the bread, he vanishes. They are amazed and thrilled, and experience a renewed spirit that propels them back to Jerusalem where they recount the story to the eleven, and anyone who’ll listen, I’m sure.
While the disciples didn’t completely figure things out until the blessing, they knew there was something about this guy that stirred a sense of passion and conviction within them. They were able to recognize Jesus because the things Jesus was doing and saying were consistent with the man they had come to know.
Ok, back to the face-slapping. On Sunday, the Youth Music Ensemble I direct led music for the First Communion at my parish. On Monday, I attended a funeral for one of our long-time parishioners. Outside of the usual places one should expect to encounter Jesus at a Mass; i.e., Eucharist, scripture, the priest, the people, I was made aware of our Lord’s holy presence in several other ways at those events.
Let’s start with the First Communion. I saw Jesus in the hopeful faces of the First Communicants. I saw Jesus in the worshipping community, supporting those communicants with a full church and even fuller participation. I saw Jesus as that same community welcomed strangers (travelers, non-Catholics) to our church. At the funeral, I saw Jesus in the suffering and grief of the deceased family and friends. I saw Jesus in the community who showed comfort and care by their presence. I saw Jesus in the reassuring and affirming words the priest shared in his homily.
I didn’t see Jesus’s actual face at either Mass, but I knew it was Jesus by His actions. Once I became aware of His presence, though, I saw him everywhere and in everyone. Thank you, Jesus.