April 30, 2017
Tom Hoopes (National Catholic Register)
This Sunday’s Gospel is a template for the Mass as not just the great worship ritual for Catholics, but as the greatest form of media ever.
Let me explain.
This is also the last weekend before finals at Benedictine College, and my students will be studying a number of Marshal McLuhan concepts we cover in my class. He is the Catholic philosopher who taught that with every new form of media, mankind has gained something and lost something. The medium of writing was powerful, but it also made us a lot more forgetful; the medium of texting makes communication easier, but it has made us a lot less careful in our writing.
What is the best form of mass communication? The original: storytelling, when the audience sees the storyteller in person, hears the vocal inflection and sees the body language of the storyteller, who in turn sees the audience reaction and responds to it.
That is what Jesus provides in today’s Gospel. The disciples are going on their way, leaving Jerusalem, and going away from the Lord. Jesus comes to meet them where they are.
He calls them to rethink their lives in a blunt way: “How foolish you are!” Then he unpacks the Scriptures for them: “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”
Simply through the spoken word, he caused them to make a choice. “He gave the impression that he was going on farther,” says the Gospel, “but they urged him, ‘Stay with us!’”Once they chose him, a miraculous thing happened: “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.”
His message is clear: He will indeed stay with them — in the Eucharist.
This is what the Mass can be for us to this day. We gather as a Church on Sunday, in order to re-anchor our relationship with God.
The Mass calls us to attention first by asking us to repent of our sins with a “my fault, my fault, my grave fault.” Then we hear another human being tell us stories from the Bible. The best lectors help those stories connect with the audience in a new way.
The homily unpacks the Scriptures for us, and we have all heard homilies that made our hearts burn within us.
Last, Jesus comes to each of us the way he came to those first disciples on the road to Emmaus: in the Eucharist. This allows us each to uniquely and completely experience Jesus in an intimate one-on-one encounter.
One of Marshall McLuhan’s best-known quotes is: “The medium is the message.” By that he means the forms of media shape their content — writing made us think in a linear way, unlike the old stories shared by the campfire; today, texting makes us communicate in short staccato bursts.
The ultimate “medium is the message” is the Eucharist. Jesus comes to each of us looking like bread, communicating the clear message: I want to be entirely with you, where you are. I want to be part of who you are. And I cannot leave this Church except through you.