One of my earliest childhood memories is listening to my grandfather’s folktales. I remember gathering around him with siblings and cousins after dinner. Grandfather would be sitting on his hand-made stool while our eyes were fixed on him eager to listen to his stories. My grandfather would not start his story unless we all had sat down and paid attention to him. Sometimes my grandfather would be telling us the same story over and over again but strange enough we never got bored of it. Of course, to begin with, as children in those days, unlike children today, we did not have the privilege of modern gadgets -- no smart-phone, no internet. I remember there was a small black and white battery-powered television. However, it would only be turned-on once a week— that was, on Friday evening where almost everyone in the neighbourhood would be flocking-in to watch “Tayangan Minggu Ini”.
To cut short the story, grandfather had never failed to entertain us. He has long since passed away but he is still very much alive in our memory. Every now and then when there is a family gathering, somehow, someone will always mention him. Even our family WhatsApp group is also named after him -- “DE LEOS” (his Christian name is LEO). When I think about our family now, I couldn’t help but see that what we are today, as individuals and family, is owed to our beloved grandfather. In a very unique way, grandfather had cultivated in his grandchildren moral values, sense of belonging and strong family bondage, all through his simple yet down-to-earth folktales.
Our Church today is also very much shaped by the many early memories of Jesus, one of which is the story in the Gospel of the Third Sunday of Easter (last Sunday). It is a story of the two disciples who fled from Jerusalem after the crucifixion of Jesus. Obliviously, Jesus was the one person who had meant most to them. With his death, their whole world had collapsed; their dreams for the future had also shattered. Struggling to make sense of their disappointment, they felt that there was nothing else for them but to leave the other apostles to go back to their old lives at Emmaus, their village.
On the way out of Jerusalem, the two forlorn disciples were joined by a stranger who not just listened sympathetically to their sorry tale but helped them to see meaning in all that had happened. However, it was not until the breaking of bread at Emmaus, that they eventually recognised the stranger. It was Jesus! He was with them all the while, at every step of their troubled journey, yet they did not recognise his presence. The breaking of bread had opened their eyes and restored their faith. Life would never be the same for these two disciples.
This memory of the two disciples’ encounter with Jesus in the breaking of bread sheds light to the Eucharist that has been very much the centre of our lives. Every Eucharist is supposed a re-living of the Emmaus experience of the two disciples in our life’s context. How many times have we walked the journey of life with downcast face occasioned by quarrels at home, difficulties at work, loneliness of being rejected and, now, the uncertainties of the world tomorrow because of the COVID19 pandemic? The troubles and worries of life can so crowd our minds that we lose our sense of direction. All the time, we forget that Jesus is walking with us, at our side ready and anxious to help us if only we would turn to him for guidance.
As we share in the breaking of bread (even though it would only be a virtual experience for you), let us pray to have our eyes open so that we can see beyond the suffering of human living, to the joy that is all around us and ahead of us. May the memory of the early Church help us to treasure the Eucharist more and more. May this memory continue to rekindle our faith in recognising Jesus as our companion who journey with us. And may we, after ending our journey here on earth, also be kept in others’ memories for whatever good things we had done to them.
While we contemplate on our personal and communal Emmaus journey, I would like to highlight a few pastoral matters:
Fr. Wilfred Atin