Four years ago today, I walked into St. Edward the Confessor and my life changed forever. Mark and I were going to be married here at the church the next day. However, on Friday the 27th, I made a split second decision to go to daily mass. Even if I had not done that, my life would have changed on the 28th, but this decision set other things in motion.
In a rare moment, I was cooperating with grace!
During the homily Father Pat Butler asked a question and me being me, I decided to boldly answer it. A brief discussion occurred and as a result I was made known to the community gathered for liturgy. After mass some of the women wanted to talk to me and this also opened the door for me to get to know Father Pat.
Which, if you read this blog at all - has resulted in many things.
This was to end a long cycle of silent, anonymous church attendance and to create a life for Mark, Erica and me that we could not have imagined.
So what on earth does that have to do with today's readings?
Faith happens in community.
Today's Gospel from Luke is the story of Emmaus. While many of us know it well, it bears some repeating, as the Gospel always does. The two disciples are walking along the road when a stranger starts to talk to them. This stranger seems to not know what had just happened, so the two disciples start to tell him the story. They end up inviting him to eat with them and that is when it is revealed in the breaking of the bread... He is Jesus the Risen Lord!
The two were walking away from their community, even if unintentionally. They seem to have given up and are still smarting since they thought that Jesus was "the one." Well as it turns out, Jesus is of course "the One!"
It is in the meal, it is in community that Jesus is found and our faith comes alive.
That is what happened to me 4 years ago as I was preparing to marry and move to a community where I knew my soon-to-be husband and step-daughter and no one else. I was not walking away dejectedly - no not at all. But I was walking alone and about to become part of a family. And I was committed to church but was I really committed to community?
Recent history had seen me separate from a long standing group of close friends and I had sat silently in pews of Catholic churches that I faithfully attended but never became a part of. My belief and faith were strong enough - but had not fully blossomed.
To encounter Jesus is not just the sustenance of silent, contemplative prayer - although that is a part of prayer - but to encounter Jesus is to be in community. The sacramental nature of the Catholic church is lived out in encounter and grace is mediated in sacrament. This ultimately means that in bread and wine and one another, through Big S and small s sacraments, we encounter Christ.
That is why (no offense intended to those who identify as such - which I once did, a long time ago), being "SBNR" doesn't make sense to me. Even my being Roman Catholic but doing so in a completely isolated way does not really make sense.
It is not until we are part of community - with all the gifts and burdens that community brings - that our faith can be deepened. Perhaps this means another community besides the Roman Catholic church, but ultimately it is only through and with one another that we truly can meet the God who walks with us as the Christ.
Walk with Christ, come to the table, engage and be a part of the community. That is the message of Emmaus that I experience and that is the ever present invitation from our God who cannot be understood, but experienced.