Spirituality of the Readings
On the Way
Suppose you and I are walking along a civilized road and a stranger starts walking with us.
“What were you discussing as you walk along?” he asks calmly.
We stop. One of us, maybe you, says to him, “Are you the only person in the world ignorant of these last decades and these centuries, the things that have happened in them?”
He replies, “What sort of things?”
You say, “We had promised to continue Christ’s works—to revere his presence, to preserve his love so it could overflow through us to everyone.” Your eyes shift away. “But now the Church is in fragments, its promises unsuccessful, and there is war, and … well, … we have betrayed his mission.”
“Betrayed?” the visitor asks.
“Ah yes,” you reply. Haven’t you even read about our World Wars? The entire world at war!
I just read that up to eight million people starve to death each year. That is a quarter of the population!!!! We do what we can, at least I think we do. But are we successful? What’s more, in our cities Churches are closing. Dioceses are going bankrupt! Only a few are entering the priesthood now—how are we going to have sacraments?”
I gesture to you with a “calm down” motion, but you go right on.
“We have crucified Christ all over again! Oh, we were hoping that he would make the whole world come right! What are we to do?”
The stranger says quietly, “How slow of heart you are to believe all that the prophets spoke. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and so bring the world into his glory?”
ou stutter: “What do you mean, suffer these things? Again? Why would Christ get caught again in the horrors of our world? Syria and North Korea and Iraq and Rwanda and Afghanistan and Indonesia and Libya … and on and on.”
He quiets you. He begins to quote scripture, beginning with Moses and the prophets. His voice is kind. He shows how God is endlessly seeking a love relationship with his people. They enter into it for a while, he says, but then turn their backs and run away. Battles and wars, belief and unbelief, rich versus poor—and worst of all, neglect of the sick, the very ones who have been aching for love.
He says that actually there is a way for the human heart to say Yes to God and mean it. “One human being has done it, and can be inside us all, if we let him come. That one is human as well as divine—to the core, both of them—and will not stop trusting God. Not even when trapped in the pool of suffering and death! To the extent that you and others like you join this human being’s faithfulness, the world will be changed.”
He walks with us more and even comes in to stay with us. We offer food. He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it, along with the wine.
My body, he says. My blood.
You are calm now and so am I. You whisper, “Maybe there was a resurrection!” We both nod. We have recognized him. We knew him when he broke the bread.
And now we can see him in the breaking bones of the world.
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University
* Jesus then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him” (John 11: 11-15).