Third Sunday of Easter, April 30
Acts 2:14, 22-33
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11
1 Peter 1:17-21
I once served on a parish committee that was tasked with developing a comprehensive design for the interior of our new sanctuary. The idea was to plan the entire decor so that all the artistic elements combined — stained glass, statuary, wall decoration, crucifix — would create a meaningful space to enhance worship.
During our discussions, some committee members observed how the atmosphere in certain churches seemed to enliven the presence of God. Our design consultant, an accomplished artist in a variety of media, also reminded us about the quality of art to both teach and transport.
Our task turned out to be arduous, partly because of members’ differing tastes in art. But mostly we labored over what images to include that would best speak to our worship and enrich the formation of our faith community.
I wish I had paid more attention at the time to the Gospel story of the Disciples on the road to Emmaus, because it reveals all the elements of God’s comprehensive design for our life with him.
In this passage from today’s readings, the Disciples are confused and having doubts about Jesus after his death.
As their faith appears to be wavering, Jesus explains in detail who he was, why he came and how his resurrection now confirms their beliefs and, moreover, signifies the reality of the world’s salvation.
Our worship at Mass effectively mirrors the Disciples’ experience on the road to Emmaus. Imagine yourself on the road with them that day as you enter the sanctuary for Sunday worship: Needing a boost to your faith, you listen to the Scripture interpreting the teachings of the prophets, reminding you of Jesus’ life and ministry and what it meant to you.
Just as your heart begins burning with renewed understanding and inspiration, the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins. You recall the Disciples seated at table with Jesus, remember his paschal sacrifice and at the moment of consecration you recognize him in the breaking of the bread.
Our daily lives can easily pull us away from our faith. That’s why we are drawn back into church each week, so our hearts will burn again in an atmosphere where we can walk with Jesus and be reassured of his promise.
QUESTIONS: If you met Jesus on the road, what doubts in your faith would you want to discuss with him? What in your worship environment enhances your communication with God?
Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 7
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
1 Peter 2:20b-25
I clearly remember Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation looking at a contraption on a wall and saying, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.” The machine would beep, then magically a steaming mug of tea would appear on a shelf. The first time I saw this, I was amazed that all he had to do was say what he wanted and it appeared. Now, voice recognition software is a part of most smartphones and many computers.
If I push a button on my phone and say, “my hot wife,” a few seconds later I am speaking to my wife. I can also say, “Play Beatles,” and the next thing you know my phone is playing music. Sometimes modern technology really blows my mind.
But voice recognition software is not a new thing. It is built into our DNA. We know some people’s voices so well that we do not need caller ID to tell us who is on the other end of a phone call. Yet, there are many more people whose voices we could not pick out if our lives depended on it.
The most important use of voice recognition is the theme of today’s Gospel. Jesus says the Good Shepherd walks ahead of his sheep, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. Hearing the voice of God is simple, but it is not easy.
It is simple because it is no different from recognizing the voice of a friend. The more we get to know a person, and the more time we spend with that person, the easier it is to distinguish that friend’s voice.
The difficulty comes in that we do not get to hear God’s voice with our ears. Another complication is that the best way to learn to recognize his voice is to study his word. This takes time and effort, but if we learn the way he speaks in the Bible, we will learn to differentiate among the voices we may hear in our mind.
There are three possible voices in our head: God’s, ours and the voice of the world. Each one is vying for our attention, but it is the voice of God that is calling us forward all the way to the green pastures of heaven.
QUESTIONS: Was there ever a time when you clearly heard the voice of God? What was that like? What are some obstacles to hearing the voice of God? How can we overcome them?