"One World: Together at Home"
attracted an audience of over 20 million TV viewers, not to mention the countless people who live-streamed the event onto their devices. Bringing together the world's finest musicians, as well as a host of other public figures, the event paid tribute to the humanitarian efforts being made across the globe to combat COVID-19, especially by health-care workers; it also provided financial support for WHO, bringing in $127.9 million. Just as importantly, Lady Gaga and Friends provided an opportunity for their global audience to reflect on the pandemic and to commit to "staying in place." It was truly a unifying event that transcended culture, religion and politics, offering hope, solidarity, and heart-felt prayers.
In contrast to this powerful expression of global togetherness, other images come to mind -- those of the raucous gun-toting mobs carrying Confederate flags and demanding the "liberation" of their states and an end to "stay at home" orders. These protesters want society to return to normal at any cost, even though medical experts caution that the virus has not yet run its course. For them, the loss of life is insignificant when compared to the economic downfall and to the temporary suspension of creature comforts such as bars, hair salons and movie theatres. Divisive rhetoric fuels the protest movement and instead of seeking the common good, adults who should know better demonstrate the same callous disregard for human life that hordes of spring breakers expressed on Floridian beaches.
COVID-19 has brought out the best and the worst in us. There are those on the front-lines serving as first responders
or else performing the "essential tasks" that allow the rest of us to stay home; then there are those who, wanting to protect their "Second Amendment Rights," carry their assault rifles to government buildings and governors' residences, screaming threats and obsenities. This is a time for choosing whether we want to be hero or thug, altruist or narcissist, someone who builds up or someone who tears down. It is a time for choosing to live as spiritual beings or to exist as fear-driven reactionaries. For Christians, it is a also a time either for embracing the gentle way of Jesus, or for seeking a different allegiance-- one that calls forth hatred, intolerance and a
Be well/ Stay well!
As they drew near to the village to which they were going, he gave them the impression he was continuing on, but they urged him, “Stay with us, for the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them, and while they were at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that, their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures for us?”
Cleopas and friend.
We don't know anything about these characters except they were disciples of Jesus' who were heading seven miles away from Jerusalem, towards the village of
. Perhaps they were a married couple, or perhaps they were siblings. Either way, it seems they had a house in the village because they invited Jesus to stay with them, an invitation reminiscent of other biblical passages where laws of hospitality meant that householders invited strangers to shelter overnight rather than to risk traveling in the darkness. Cleopas and friend certainly would not have entered a random house and this reinforces the idea that Jesus was their guest, in their home. They may have carried bread with them from Jerusalem or perhaps they lived with a female relative who may have cooked that day, perhaps in anticipation of their return. Then again, if Cleopas' companion was also his wife or sister, maybe she was the one who cooked while Jesus continued to interpret the prophetic texts. Whatever the case, all three settled at the table to share a meal and, regardless of what else there was to eat, there was a loaf of bread -- the same loaf that Jesus blessed, broke and shared. Most likely, the breaking of bread refers to the Jewish custom of praying over bread at the beginning of a family meal:
"Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, hamotzi lechem, min ha aretz." "Blessed are You,
O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has brought forth bread from the earth."
Until this point, Jesus had hidden his identity from the two disciples, not only feigning ignorance about events in Jerusalem, but then rebuking his followers for their inability to understand the prophecies. The story presents a playful Jesus who acts like a "Trickster"; finally, after offering the blessing, he vanishes.
THE BREAKING OF BREAD
Luke tells us that although the disciples' hearts burned within them, it wasn't until Jesus broke bread that they recognized him. However, there is no suggestion that Jesus did anything other than perform the customary Jewish ritual of blessing before a meal. Had he said "This is my Body" or had he referred to himself as "the Bread of Life," Luke would have recorded this. Instead, the exact wording is:
he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them."
What opened Cleopas' eyes and the eyes of his companion was the way in which Jesus prayed a traditional prayer they must have heard countless times at every meal in which they had ever partaken. This suggests that there was something radically different about the way Jesus prayed-- that his prayer was more personal, more intimate, more reverent, more heart-felt than any prayer they had heard before. There must have been a qualitative difference between what the disciples were accustomed to witnessing in other settings and the prayer Jesus modeled. He was the sacrament of God's presence and through his ritual words and gestures, heaven and earth became one; the simple meal became the eschatological banquet, a foreshadowing of the new heavens and new earth when there will no longer be tears on God's Holy Mountain, when all peoples of the world will find welcome and where God's mercy and forgiveness will flow in infinite abundance.
Jesus is to be found in the breaking of bread -- not just in the Eucharist, but whenever the faithful gather to pray in a way that is both authentic and mindful. If we wish to pray like Jesus, we need to leave behind the language of rote, strip away layers of habit, and remember that we are addressing the Holy One --
the Creator of the Universe, the Giver of all Gifts, the Source of Abundance, the Sustainer of Life, the One who Listens, the One who Forgives, the One who Makes All Things New, the One who Loved Us into Being and who is Bread for our Souls...