Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter
The Power of Interpretation

Readings: Acts 3:1-10; Psalm 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9; Luke 24:13-35

I find it rather striking how closely our readings today mirror what’s been going on at a meeting we’ve been attending over these past couple of days. Three points of convergence seem to stand out for me. The first is a problem, and the next two are attempts at a solution.

One thing that seems obvious to an innocent bystander is that not a few of the participants at the meeting are frustrated for a very specific reason. Theirs is the problem of implementation, or the lack of it. They lament that few, if any, of the issues being discussed at the meeting are new. And yet, to date, no effective steps have been taken to address them. Their exasperation is not unlike what we find in both our readings today. The man at the Beautiful Gate is both poor and disabled. More deep-seated even than his desire for alms is his hunger to do something he has never been able to do before. He yearns to walk. But the riches of both material and physical well-being remain well beyond his reach. He faces a problem of implementation. And so do the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They had hoped that, in Jerusalem, Jesus would somehow fulfill their yearnings for an earthly Messiah. But these dreams were dashed when Jesus was executed. Hence we find them leaving Jerusalem. Theirs too is a problem of implementation.

How to respond? At the meeting we’re attending the preferred approach seems to be the gathering and analysis of information. We’ve been listening to and discussing statistics obtained from the results of a recent census. This is, of course, a valuable and important exercise. It keeps us from empty speculation regarding the relevant issues. And yet, we might well wonder if this alone is enough to address the problem. Consider the situation in the gospel today. The disciples on the road to Emmaus are not ignorant of the facts. They are not out of touch with current information. Indeed, they are able to fill the Risen Christ in on all the relevant data. They know, for example, that Jesus was a Nazarene, that he was a mighty prophet, that he was condemned to death and crucified. They even know that his Body has gone missing. And yet, they remain headed in the opposite direction from Jerusalem, the place of their dreams. They remain caught up in the problem of implementation.

What is it that finally moves them to dash back to Jerusalem? What is it that finally dissolves the problem for them? The answer is clear. They recognize Jesus at the breaking of bread. But this takes place not only because they fix their attention solely on the facts. Rather, in addition to discussing relevant information, it is when they share with each other their hopes and fears, their dreams and disappointments, that they experience Jesus joining them and ministering to them in a singularly effective way. He interprets the raw data for them in light of the Scriptures. As a result, their hearts burn within them, and they are moved to make a change. They set out at once for Jerusalem. Properly guided interpretation of relevant information leads to enthusiastic implementation.

Today, my prayer is that, at our meeting, we might be able to experience something of the same dynamic.

What is yours?


  1. Oh you don't say, Fr Chris: frustrations at meetings are always part of the agenda!!

    It's been said cynically that statistics is a group of numbers looking for an argument. Those of us who deal with numbers know this only too well: you make inferences depending on your agenda. Which brings me to the subject of interpretation.

    The official interpretation of the Chief Priest and pharisees upon being told that Jesus' lifeless body had gone missing was that it was stolen. The interpretation of Mary Magdalene, the first at the tomb, was the person Who called her name was the gardener. The interpretation of Thomas upon being told that Jesus had appeared to the rest of the disciples was "It cannot be until I see the statistics!"

    In our lives too we are often confronted with interpretations of things spiritual and non-spiritual, supernatural and natural. We can make enlightened inferences after gathering opinions / information from other sources, or better still, after having recourse to the Reference. Some call it discernment.

  2. My short reaction is premised upon my past habit: analyze till I am paralyzed. Using the head to solve earthly conundrums is par for the course.
    However when it comes to things spiritual, we are urged to use the heart to see and our ears/eyes to discern the truth so it can move down to one's deeper being.
    We feel the presence of something beyond only when we are present to the present. Being cluttered with too many input robs us of the Now. Such is the bane of our humdrum existence.

  3. Hahaha! How come the people who comment on this blog choose to be anonymous?

  4. Does one's identity make the posting any more potent or compelling?

    Message not the messenger my dear.

    Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!

  5. The messenger is the message too. Poor Fr Chris. I wonder whether you've ever felt that you're talking in a cave full of shadows here. :-p

  6. Oh, Fr Chris knows full well the shadows he's talking to. He also knows other countless nameless, faceless shadows who benefit from his awesome daily blogs on Scripture.

    Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.