Jesus just wasn't there among them anymore.
Saturday 17th April 2021 will stand out in our memories now as the day when Prince Philip’s body was buried. It will remain as the day when his mortal life was ritually ended and the eternity of his essential self was assured. In vastly varying degrees, Her Majesty the Queen, his closest family and his world wider family will experience his physical absence and yet cherish his continued unique influence. Like so many of us who have known bereavement, families begin to confusedly notice that s/he just isn’t there anymore.
Such was the confusion of the disciples as they experienced Jesus just not being there, amongst them, anymore. The way ahead was uncharted and the master mariner had come ashore. As storyteller, St. Luke navigates a passage through his Gospel and the sequential Acts of the Apostles, for all disciples transiting from the death of Jesus, their loss and confusion, to the new
beginnings of ‘Church’ and the great co-mission as the Body of Christ. Luke gently takes disciples by the hand, taking them from the known earthly sense of Jesus’ presence into the realms of his yet unknown divine omnipresence. What can be more earthly than to share food, nourishment for the body? In the reassuring resurrection appearances Jesus is recognised in the breaking of the bread after the Emmaus Road walk; another time sees his having breakfast on the beach and, in today’s gospel, Jesus grounds the anxious disciples by asking them for something to eat. Luke keeps the disciples in the touchable, taste-able, visual and audible world of human sensation and then gently introduces them to the non-sensible realms of the spirit.
As Jesus finds them in their confused state, he assures them that there is no need to be afraid, and greets them with the gesture of Peace. Again, this is the grounding of the now in eternity. An
acceptable Semitic greeting, ‘Peace be with you’, is to bestow the ultimate good, a wholeness, and implies a unifying, a coming together, a super-glue bonding, of all that is divided, separated. Peace is to unite humans with God, and with each other. Peace is to touch the divine wounds.
Peace is to unite the sensible with the non-sensible, the earthly with the heavenly and is exchanged at the centre of our Christian meal, where Word and Sacrament are bonded together. In Eucharist we are incorporated, embodied in God. Where there is peace, we can begin to know the joy of emerging out of any confusional bereavement. This is the joy of the new birth, the joy of walking the road of the beatitudes.
We continue to pilgrim and bereavement confusion comes and goes, (doesn’t it?), like waves on the beach. It is though, in the very midst all of this, that we may yet be blessed by the very Peace of God, even though it passes all our understanding. The Peace of the Lord be with you.
Here is the Parish Link for this week, which can be downloaded.