Archbishop J, the Paschal mystery: how does it relate to family life? (Pt II)
Last week I began the journey to explore the Paschal mystery from the perspective of the family. We reflected on the dying to self that is engrained into the daily family experience.
This opportunity for grace given in the family one thousand times a day—when understood and entered into—will yield a rich harvest. We call these holy moments: times when we pause and ask God to show us His perfect will in the moment, and then do whatever He asks.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life” (654).
This is an invitation to meditate on both the death and Resurrection, as it relates to the family. Christ’s death saves us from sin. Our dying to self, countless times a day in the family, unites us with Christ’s suffering and opens up for us a path to humility, and a way to discipleship—a way to love.
Pope Benedict XVI has often said that the family is the first and vital cell of the society. If the Resurrection of Christ is to have meaning and efficacy, this must become more and more visible in the Catholic family.
If this is true, the family is the primary place where the Paschal mystery needs to be lived and seen to be lived. Then, the family will be “the primary place of ‘humanisation’ for the person and society”, and a “cradle of life and love”. What does it mean to live the power of the Resurrection in the family?
The big challenge that the modern Catholic has is in understanding and living the Resurrection. We know how to live the death; we make sacrifices, offer alms and prayers. The Resurrection needs a different religious imagination, one that most modern Catholics have not yet grasped.
Let us take the road to Emmaus as a way of understanding this mystery and its impact on the disciple.
The two disciples are leaving Jerusalem. They are downcast and distressed. They are filled with failure, disappointment, and despair. Their hopes are dashed as they recount the death of their leader.
This I believe is an accurate description of many families today. Rather than staying in Jerusalem—the city of destiny and mission—they have left and are heading away from where God has called them.
Is this the case of your family? Is your family on mission? Is your family living as Jesus asked you to live? Are you in distress and disappointed, and your hopes dashed? Then, you are on the road to Emmaus.
The story recounts that “Jesus himself came up and walked with them” on their journey (Lk 24:15). This is quite amazing, for the Scripture continues: “But they were kept from recognising him” (16).
It is not that Jesus is not there; it is that the disciples do not recognise Him. Although it is not important in itself, many believe that Cleopas refers to the same man whose wife stands at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother (cf Jn 19:25). It is also believed that the two persons walking to Emmaus are the husband and wife. This would have been Jesus’ uncle and aunt—a family.
The family is distressed—in despair, despondent and disappointed—and Jesus comes up to them and walks with them, but they cannot recognise Him.
What is wonderful is that Jesus calls them foolish and slow: “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself (Lk 24:25–27). Of critical importance is that after all this they still do not recognise Him.
The Christ has had to suffer and die and then enter into His glory. Suffering is part of the story. We have been sold a lie that we are not supposed to suffer, we are not to have pain, that we are not to struggle.
Because of the lie, many couples blame each other for their struggles, suffering and pain. If the Christ had to suffer and die, why do we believe we are exempt from pain and suffering?
What is important is that this catechesis be given to the family. The Resurrection comes through the suffering and death, and not without it. The story goes on to say they were pressing Him to stay with them because it was almost evening. Then, He breaks bread and gives them, and their eyes are opened (Lk 24:31).
Jesus was walking with the family, but they did not see Him walking with them. After getting the catechesis on the cross, they still did not see Him. It was in the breaking of the bread—the Eucharist—that their eyes were opened.
How many good families are on the journey to Emmaus—filled with despair and disappointment, feeling crushed and dejected and utterly alone? We cannot open our eyes, only God can.
Interesting here is that when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, their eyes were opened. They looked at themselves and saw they were naked. The couple on the road to Emmaus eat from the fruit of the tree of life (the Eucharist) and their eyes are opened and they see God. They then return to Jerusalem and mission.
Families! Turn your eyes to God!
The family is the place to encounter the risen Christ and when it does, the family will be turned again to mission.
Reflect on your family. Are you looking at yourself, your needs, wants, disappointments, distress? Or are you looking to God: His desire, love and presence calling you to mission? Does your family come to the Eucharist to encounter the risen Christ?