3rd Sunday of Easter
24th April 2020
St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
In the last few months, a couple fulfilled a long-held dream of sailing ‘round the world as a way of getting away from everything. Part of their plan was to stay away from contact with family and friends unless it was absolutely necessary.
Their trip went thankfully without incident until they had to come to harbour for some supplies. It was then they learned of COVID-19 and its impact across the globe. While at sea the world had changed – they were returning to a different world – with restrictions that they could not have imagined before they set sail.
As these days of ‘lockdown’ ebb slowly it is remarkable the level of non-stop media coverage we are getting. Apart from the latest figures and statistics we have the finest minds of the age struggling to figure out what this experience will mean for our future as a society and economy. All the indicators say two things, personally we will be living with the threat of the virus for some time to come probably for a year or more at a minimum. The other indicator is that we are already in an economic recession which will last a number of years before recovery will be possible.
As we gather in faith on this 3rd Sunday of Easter the Gospel account of the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus is a rich narrative for us to draw inspiration from.
The disciples are downcast and sad as they walk away from Jerusalem having witnessed the final days of Jesus’ treatment at the hands of the leaders of the day that led to His crucifixion. On one level their hopes were dashed … on another they had the seed of hope in the story of the empty tomb as reported by the women who had gone there.
For the disciples who walked the road all was changed by the stranger who joined them – whose words and conversation gave them an entirely new perspective as He made the connections for them. No wonder they pressed Him to stay with them and as they were at table “they recognised Him at the breaking of the bread” but He had vanished from their sight.
This is a powerful and inspiring story for every disciple of Christ. In life He walks with us, He engages and uplifts us by His word(s) and in the Eucharist / at Mass we recognise Him in the Breaking of the Bread and are nourished when in faith and reverence we say ‘Amen’ to the Body of Christ.
We are now in lockdown as long as Jesus spent fasting in the desert. For Him that was a time of testing, so too for us, in different ways COVID-19 is a time of testing. Jesus’ response to Satan’s temptation of food was that “Man does not live on bread alone. But from every word that comes from the mouth of God”.
That is so true for us at this time of crisis. This testing prompts us in two ways to renew our thinking and living. One, it prompts us to think more about our life and its direction. It prompts us to find a better balance by looking again at our priorities.
The other wonderful fact this time of testing has done has been to renew our sense of outreach to others who are finding this time difficult.
More families are mourning a loved one. People are fearful of contracting the virus because while so many recover – many do not. And while older people have a greater level of risk – the not so young are vulnerable too. Some families are stressed by the confinement imposed upon them while others are experiencing a new appreciation of one another. For some with mental health issues these days are immensely stressful. Those in the grip of addiction are pushed to new limits of pressure.
In these Easter days we draw strength from the abiding presence of the Lord walking with us – of understanding our fear and anxiety – of inspiring us with His words to recognise and accept our own understandable feeling of being downcast.
This week the Abbey Theatre will be presenting a series of reflections called Dear Ireland which have been commissioned. There are 50 writers and 50 actors. It is a creative and imaginative way for us to grasp how this experience, family, local, national and global is impacting on us.
All these reflections, along with our faith and prayer can serve us as a wellspring of hope and inspiration through these strange times.
What do we want to be to one another?
What do we want our society to look like?
What are we not paying enough attention to?
Where do we want to go next?
What should Ireland write on a postcard to itself?
These are good and worthwhile questions for all of us.