Listen, Love and Journey
Begin with Prayer then Read Luke 24:13-21
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. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
Read the Scripture again quietly to yourself. Notice a word, phrase, or sense that touches you.
Listen, Love and Journey Reflection by Bev McDonald
To be a disciple of Christ, means journeying toward deeper knowledge of Jesus, and a personal encounter with Him. In our fast paced world, parents, religious, priests, parishes, groups and schools have all struggled to deepen and sustain the faith life of other people, and lead them to a deeper knowledge of Christ and personal relationship with him. The reality is many have walked away from belief in Jesus, and/or belonging in his Church. Some people in their spiritual search have found answers or homes in other Christian denominations or even other faiths. Others say they are still spiritual but have no need for organised religion. Some ﬁnd the Mass boring, the homilies irrelevant or the music tedious. Some have been hurt or have lost faith completely and no longer believe in God at all.
Today we need to find new ways to assist people to develop their capacity for God, helping them grow in prayer, developing their knowledge of Jesus and his Church in their lives, in a way which is meaningful and helps them recognise the presence of the risen Christ in their daily, lived experience. In doing this, Bishop Steve Lowe of the Hamilton Diocese, says, “we need to be careful of three dangers.
• If we focus too much on knowledge, faith can become just a theory.
• If we focus too much on moral perfection and action, we quickly judge and miss the opportunity to take people on the journey.
• If we focus too much on experience, we create God in our own image and likeness.”
Each of us is on our own spiritual journey. Recognising that fact is fundamental, even if they are walking away. Christ himself never abandons us. I remember telling my first theology lecturer that theology felt like dissecting a frog had done in biology class. My fear was that my faith would no longer be a living reality for me. He astounded me by saying if my faith journey took me out of the Church, even out of any recognised relationship with Christ, God would be with me and he would also commit to journey with me no matter what. He had no fear that I would get lost provided I never stopped the journey by becoming complacent or comfortable. “Keep searching for truth in humility and never decide you have arrived, then God will always keep leading you deeper into truth”, he said. Here I still am and when I get tempted to complacency, I remember his wise counsel and try to keep digging deeper into the mystery of God, no matter how that stretches me.
It’s been freeing for me to recognise there are many complex reasons why people walk away. Many in my own family are in that situation. Bishop Steve Lowe again says,
“We need to avoid the sort of ﬁnger pointing which apportions blame or fault. This negative judgement can easily ﬂow into cynicism and bitterness. Instead, we acknowledge our rapidly changing world with its many voices and options as our context where we are called to plant seeds of faith which others will reap. St Peter Chanel saw the unbelieving island of Futuna as an opportunity for God. We need to see our rapidly changing world as our opportunity for God. Like Peter Chanel we are called to be people of great heart who don’t give up in the face of disappointment and failure. Like him, we must encounter each person, respecting them on their own spiritual journey. But it doesn’t mean we leave them there. Our desire as Church is to journey with them. Each journey of faith must lead us to the fullness of universal love. Every encounter we have then becomes an opportunity to help one another grow in this love. This is our task, our mission, and this work belongs to us all.” (Slightly paraphrased)
Pope Francis, in reflecting on the Emmaus story in 2013 said, “We can feel like those who must tally up a losing season as we consider those who have left us or no longer consider us credible or relevant. The Emmaus disciples left Jerusalem leaving behind the “nakedness” of God. They are scandalized by the failure of the Messiah in whom they had hoped and who now appeared utterly vanquished, humiliated. Today we must face the difficult mystery of those people who leave the Church under the illusion of alternative ideas, who now think the Church – their Jerusalem – can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important. So, they set off on the road alone, with their disappointment. It is a fact that nowadays there are many people like the two disciples of Emmaus; not only those looking for answers in new religious groups, but also those who already have no faith in God.
An evangelizing community, Pope Francis says, takes initiative, goes out to others, seeks those who have fallen away, stands at the crossroads and welcomes the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s inﬁnite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the ﬁrst step and to become involved… An evangelizing community, he says, gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, … it embraces human life, touching the suffering ﬂesh of Christ in others. An evangelizing community is supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy that may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. EG 24 (Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel, 2013)
Evangelization, the Pope says, consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time. We keep searching for the way God has prepared for the word to take ﬂesh in each situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear.
God Bless Bev
Marists will pray for, try to understand, dialogue with, and reach out in love and peace
to their fellow Christians and even to those of other religions.
Simply Use the Questions below as Starters to Guide Your Sharing
- “The reality is many have walked away from belief in Jesus, and/or belonging in his Church” – What is your experience of this and how does it make you feel?
- Bishop Steve gives 3 dangers in how we relate to others.
- Treating faith as just knowledge and theory,
2. Judging others by standards they cannot reach yet,
3. Focussing so much on experience that we make God the way we want God to be.
Which danger are you most prone to?
- Treating faith as just knowledge and theory,
- What can help us see with hope, God working in mercy in our rapidly changing world?
- Bev was given the freedom to journey and never be afraid of her questions by someone she respected. Pope Francis says an evangelizing community stands by people, is supportive of their journey, has patient endurance and hope no matter how lengthy or complex the process may be. How can we apply that gentleness and patience to the way we reach out and embrace people at every stage on their journey with God?
Pray for each others’ needs, your community and the world.
Then use this closing prayer.
God of Mercy, I desire, to make the Church friendly, open and faithful to the Gospel. I want to respond generously to the Holy Spirit as Mary did. In asking the Spirit of God to guide me every day, I want to be a bearer of mercy, life and hope to all who are waiting to meet brothers and sisters on their journey of life. I will be particularly attentive to those who are suffering and in need. I acknowledge this is hard for me so I place all my trust in you and in the guidance and support of Mary. Amen.