Today I am going to talk about the great English saint, Bede. Saint Bede was born in Northumbria in 672 or 673. Born on lands belonging to the twin monastery of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow in present-day Tyne and Wear, Bede was sent to Monkwearmouth at the age of seven and later joined Abbot Ceolfrith at Jarrow, both of whom survived a plague that struck in 686, an outbreak that killed a majority of the population there.
Although he spent most of his life in the monastery (in self-isolation with his family of monks) in a remote part of Britain on civilisation’s edge, his scholarship enriched the world and ours by helping to establish Christianity in the West. Bede is a well-known author, teacher, and scholar. His most famous work (still in print!), the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, gained him the title "The Father of English History".
Saint Bede recalled later on that he “wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture; and…I always took delight in learning or teaching, or writing..” He wrote twenty-five commentaries on the Bible, always striving to uncover the spiritual meaning of the text. During the Lent before he died, Bede worked on translating the Gospel of Saint John into English, completing it the day he died. This was so that he could "“break the word to the poor and unlearned”, but sadly these translations are no longer around.
He died in 735.
As we discussed on 23 March 2020, reading the Bible might be a good way of reflecting each day during this pandemic.
Why not pick up the Bible today and start reading from Chapter 1? Or, you could try reading a passage of the New Testament each day? Alternatively, you can try taking a short passage of Scripture and pondering it.
Throughout its 800 years, Carmelite spirituality has placed a particularly strong emphasis on pondering Scripture and is called Lectio Divina. This is the Latin for 'Holy Reading' and was a form and approach to praying with Scripture that was common among medieval religious orders. Essentially Lectio Divina involves taking a short passage of Scripture and pondering it. This can be done alone and normally involves prolonged periods of silence.
Today’s reading is Luke 24:13-35 and this reading plus a reflection and prayer can be viewed below:
1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
You are a God not of the dead
nor of those paralyzed by their fears and limitations
but the God of the living. Raise us up and make us walk forward
in joy and hope
as companions on the road
of Him whom you raised from the dead,
Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 24:13-35
That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?" They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?" And he replied to them, "What sort of things?" They said to him, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his Body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see." And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and those with them who were saying, "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!" Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
• Today’s Gospel speaks to us of a very well know episode, of the apparition of Jesus to the disciples at Emmaus. Luke writes in the year 80 for the communities of Greece, which for the most part were made up of converted Gentiles. The years 60’s and 70’s had been most difficult ones. There had been the great persecution of Nero in the year 64. Six years later, in the year 70, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. In the year 72, in Masada, in the desert of Judah, there was the massacre of the last rebellious Jews. In those years, the Apostles, witnesses of the Resurrection, disappeared gradually. People began to feel tired on the journey. From where could they draw the strength so as not to get discouraged? How to discover the presence of Jesus in such a difficult situation? The story of the apparition of Jesus to the disciples at Emmaus tries to give a response to all these anguishing questions. Luke wants to teach the communities how to interpret Scripture in order to be able to rediscover the presence of Jesus in life.
• Luke 24:13-24: 1st Step: to get away from reality. Jesus meets the two friends in a situation of fear and lack of faith. The force of death, the cross, had killed the hope in them. This was the situation of many people at the time of Luke and is also the predicament of many people today. Jesus gets close to them and walks by their side. He listens to their conversation and asks, “What are all these things that you are discussing as you walk along?” The dominant ideology of the government and of the official religion of the time prevent them from seeing. “Our hope had been that He would be the one to set Israel free.” What is the conversation of people who suffer today? The first step is this one: get close to the people, listen to their reality, feel their problems: be capable of asking questions which will help the people to look at reality from a more critical perspective.
• Luke 24:25-27: 2nd step: use the Bible to enlighten life. Jesus uses the Bible and the history of people to illuminate the problem which made the two friends suffer, and to clarify the situation in which they are living. He also uses it to place them in the whole plan of God which came from Moses and the prophets. Thus, He indicates that history had not escaped from God’s hand. Jesus uses the Bible not as a doctor who knows everything, but rather like a companion who comes to help friends and to remind them of what they had forgotten. Jesus tries to awaken their memory: “Foolish and slow to believe all that the prophets have said! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into His glory?”This is the second step: With the Bible, help people to discover the wisdom which already exists in them, and transform the cross, a sign of death, into a sign of life and of hope. What prevented them from walking now becomes for them strength and light on the journey. How can we do this today?
Luke 24:28-32: 3rd step: to share in community. The Bible in itself does not open their eyes. It only makes their heart burn. What opens the eyes and makes them see is the breaking of the bread, the communal gesture of sharing, and the celebration of the Supper. At the moment in which both recognize Jesus, they are born anew, and Jesus disappears. Jesus does not take possession of his friends’ road. He is not paternalistic. Risen, the disciples are capable of walking alone.
The third step is the following: to know how to create a fraternal environment of faith, of celebration and of sharing, where the Holy Spirit can act. It is He who makes us discover and experience the Word of God in life, which leads us to understand the meaning of the words of Jesus (Jn 14:26; 16:13).
• Luke 24:33-35: 4th step: The result: To resurrect means to go back to Jerusalem. The two of them, courageously, get back on the road to go to Jerusalem, where the same forces of death, which had killed Jesus and had killed their hope, continue to be active. But, now everything has changed. If Jesus is alive, then there is in Him and with Him a stronger power than that which killed Him. This experience makes them resurrect! Truly, everything has changed. There is return and not flight! Faith and not unbelief! Hope and not despair! Critical conscience and not fatalism in the face of power! Liberty and not oppression! In one word: life and not death! Instead of the bad news of the death of Jesus, the Good News of his Resurrection! Both of them experience life and life in abundance! (Jn 10:10). This is a sign that the Spirit of Jesus is acting in them!
4) Personal questions
• Both of them say, “We were hoping, but…!” Have you ever been in a situation of discouragement which led you to say, “I was hoping, but…!”?
• How do you read, use and interpret the Bible? Have you ever felt your heart burning when reading and meditating on the Word of God? Do you read the Bible alone or are you part of a Bible group?
• Considering these steps, and the way Jesus enlightened these disciples, how would you help a friend who was losing hope or faith?
5) Concluding Prayer
Give thanks to Yahweh, call on His name,
proclaim His deeds to the peoples!
Sing to Him, make music for Him,
recount all His wonders! (Ps 105:1-2)
SAINT JUDE, PRAY FOR US; SAINT BEDE, PRAY FOR US.
- Reflection written by Matthew Betts