Unhappiness increases the more we walk away from Community … welcome back to find meaning & joy as we help out
The Gospels reveal so much that is not actually written in words. Take, for instance, the setting of today’s Gospel:
1. The disciples are walking in the late afternoon: towards the end of the day: toward darkness.
2. After Christ enlightens them, darkness is no longer an obstacle to travelling at night.
The “end of the day” and approaching darkness is a metaphor for the times when we are nearing the end of hope, “the end of our tether” as they say in English to describe a loss of patience or hope for a given situation.
When things happen to us that we don’t understand, we can become frustrated and refuse to learn from these occasions, preferring instead to get angry and look for sympathy: blame others.
Think of how the times, as children and teenagers growing up, when our parents or teachers refused permission for what we wanted to do. Although, at the time, we were disappointed (angry?), frustrated(?), hopefully we looked back and saw the wisdom of our parents/ teachers.
But, what about as “responsible” adults? Who helps us understand the disappointments in our lives? Today’s Gospel suggests to us that Christ can make sense of the confusion and loss of certainty that “attacks” most of us from time to time.
There were two Irishmen travelling on a London train. When it stopped at a station, one asked the other: “is this Wembley”; the other responded, “no, it’s Tursdee.” So the first man, said: “I’m thirsty too, let’s get off for a drink.”
The disciples are confused, and walked away from Community: one is named, the other is not: it’s an invitation to place ourselves into the Gospel with our own confusion/ disappointments.
“We were hoping that he was the one who was going to rescue Israel.” This text reveals how our own way of thinking can often block the truth, and prevent us from seeing God’s way.
God is always about Community – we are often about individualism.
God’s ways are there for us to find if we take time to look and listen. Pope Francis recently said that we can only find Jesus in Community: whereas, often, we want to go our own way and form a community that agrees with my way of thinking.
To discover the truth, we need to be challenged: as Jesus challenged the leaders 2,000 years ago, and still does today. However, God is ever polite and rarely forces Himself on us: today’s Gospel reveals how Jesus made as if to go on and leave the disciples:
But the disciples invited Christ into their lives and they were transformed: They recognised Jesus at the breaking of the Bread.
What does this mean? That, the more we give ourselves away, the more we find meaning in life. Parents understand this better than most: they sacrifice themselves for their children. It’s often painful, a struggle and involves tears. However, the struggles and tears seem to deepen the love they have for their children, and the meaning they find in life for themselves.
Are our lives losing meaning? Are they unhappy? Today’s Gospel encourages us to invite Christ into our lives more deeply by allowing ourselves to be sacrificed for others:
Are we a bit pre-occupied with our own problems and not interested in problems other people are suffering? Isn’t it true when we feel sorry for ourselves, those feelings can disappear quickly when we see the suffering of others?
The disciples, after recognising Christ in their lives, are immediately filled with courage to travel in the darkness back to their Community. They discover joy and new meaning.
When we go back to the Church Community, let’s not sit in the back seat and get bored, but look for some way to contribute our skills and presence to help the Community: especially those who might be neglected or suffering.
Often we hear people complaining because young people no longer come to Church. Could we start providing services for the youth: mentorship for those at University? Mathematics tutorials for those in High School?
Offering to give talks to the youth about our life experiences? Our career? I’m sure, our lives will have more meaning and joy in them.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI