Chris McDonnell: Come break and share

Two crucial post-Resurrection stories of Jesus are centred on the sharing of a meal, supper after the journey to Emmaus and breakfast by the lake of Tiberias . The offering of food, the sustaining of life, both are never far away from the message of the Gospel. What the man from Galilee is offering his followers he then demands they offer to others. His forgiveness of Peter comes with the codicil that Peter has something to do, “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep”. The Mission of the Church has begun.

  In our natural lives, food and drink are there to sustain growth and good health. So too the Eucharist and our experience of Prayer are there to sustain our closeness to God.

  We share a meal with friends in a sociable way, offering the hospitality of our table and the warmth of our companionship. But then there are other occasions when the need of food arises from real hunger, just as we are also aware of the need to drink when thirst dries our mouth. Conviviality has become necessity.

  So the Eucharist is there not only for the good times, when everything is fine and we feel right with the world and with the Lord. No, it is there for the times of struggle and pain, when things have gone wrong, when we have made mistakes, when we need the sustenance that is offered to us. That is what makes the current discussion in respect of Marriage, the event of its failure and reception of the sacramental gift so urgent. The Eucharist is there as food for the journey, not as a gift for being good, not as a prize for being well-behaved.

  In a similar way, our prayer is never a constant, self-satisfying experience. Emptiness and darkness are sometimes the only apparent consequence of our effort to pray. Words do not come and all we can do is just be there.

  That morning, as the sun rose over the waters of the lake, there was uncertainty among the fishermen as to who had kindled the fire for breakfast, yet deep down they knew who it was.

  From our morning, through to evening each day, from our birth to our passing, it is Christ who sustains us. 

 Christ of woods

          of trees

           and forest

Christ of leaves

           of darkness

            and damp

  Christ of sunrise

             of dawn

             and mist morning

  Christ of brightness

              of noontime

              and warmth

    Christ of evening

               of sunset

               and stillness

   Christ of space

               between solitude

               and silence

  Christ of emptiness

                of clearing

                beyond Other

   Christ of inner peace

                 our Being

                 and end.

Source: “Morning prayer” from the collection Pieces of a Broken Jar – 1998

reflections on Thomas Merton during the Hermitage years – Chris McDonnell

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