Since Easter I’ve been away quite a bit. I’ve travelled to Shropshire and back – maybe some 24 hours of travelling by bus, train and car. One of the things I like about travelling by public transport is that you meet a whole selection of people that you would be unlikely to meet under any other circumstances. These people all have their stories to tell and when travelling many share some small portion of their lives with the stranger sitting in the seat opposite. In my experience the likelihood of this increases when the train or bus is delayed, cancelled or suffers some other adversity. My travels were not without incident.
Maybe this willingness to talk is simply a way to pass the time whilst the situation is remedied, or maybe it’s because the immediate adversity makes people more acutely aware of the difficulties that they or their loved ones are facing, and the disrupted travel makes a real connection with disruptions in other parts of their lives.
We’re travelling through the Easter season, after the disruption and adversity of Holy Week, a week which for me had added resonance this year in the aftermath of my Father’s funeral. Easter, I don’t mind admitting, was quite literally a blessèd relief. Easter is here. Alleluia Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed Alleluia.
In Luke’s Gospel, we hear about groups of disciples who meet Jesus under a variety of circumstances. In each case, although they’ve encountered the Risen Jesus, they’ve failed to recognise Him (at least initially). On Easter Day we heard about Mary in the Garden, who mistakes Him for the gardener and only recognises Him when he calls her by name. Recognising Jesus requires more than just seeing Him. Hearing about Him isn’t enough either, we need faith as well – think of Thomas who we have also heard about recently. In Luke’s Gospel there’s also the story about two Disciples who meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus and talk with Him as He explains the Scriptures to them whilst walking along. The calling by name, the breaking of bread or the invitation to touch Him – these are when it clicks and we actually realise we are in His presence, as Thomas does when he famously says “My Lord and my God”.
In our Resurrection journey, the point is that Jesus is really real and truly alive! How is Jesus really real and truly alive in our world today? How do our eyes need to be opened to perceive Jesus? How do our ears need to be unstopped to hear His voice? Where do we touch the hands and feet of our Lord? If the Resurrection is to mean anything to me it has to mean something every hour of the day, every day of the week and every week of the year. It isn’t just an Easter thing or a Sunday thing, we are after all an Easter People. How does the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus help us to make sense of what is happening in our lives just now? How does the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus help us bring comfort and healing to the people of a world which with each passing day seems to be getting itself into a bigger and bigger mess?
At the centre of our Eucharistic Prayer we find Paul’s account to the Corinthians about the last supper. In that account what we perhaps hear is: “Jesus took bread and said: this is my body that is for you”. But is he not saying “If you are looking for my body, this is it” Jesus is saying if you are looking for my body, don’t go looking for it in the tomb, don’t look up to heaven for it, you don’t have to look anywhere but amongst yourselves. In any meal shared in friendship, in any act of hospitality, in any act of walking with others (feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned or the sick or the lonely, housing the homeless, celebrating with friends), it’s in all these things that we are in the presence of Christ.
It’s sitting on a train that isn’t going anywhere, it’s sitting in a hospital anxiously awaiting news, it’s in all those everyday encounters, as we travel through life, where stories are told and people share their innermost fears with a fellow human being, that we’re walking with our Risen Lord; Travelling in the Resurrection.