Her soft voice was unexpected, the call unanticipated. Gratitude flooded our space: there was that indefinable familiarity, picking up where we left off, conversing as if we had seen each other yesterday. She confided about her work, and I about mine. She described a recent fall and confinement to a wheelchair, what that is like for an 88 year old cloistered nun to navigate through monastery halls. We agreed that aging changes things significantly. Significantly. We talked about politics and God and the waves of social change. Finally, in that lyrical and loving tone, she said, “When will we realize that we belong to each other?” It was neither cryptic nor cynical and her tone carried a certainty that day would somehow arrive. We paused. And then we went on dallying with what it means to be aging and wondering what lies ahead. But the words “We belong to each other” wandered through heart and soul and simply stayed. When I opened the Third Sunday of Easter readings, I began to understand why.
“We belong to each other” implies so much about the ways we live and believe. And the readings speak directly to that. The first two define the gentle countenance of an accepting God; there is a distinction between the act of sin itself and the acceptance offered the sinner. It is the idea that being human means trying over and over again, constantly discovering and re-discovering, making mistakes and wrong turns and adjusting as much as possible. Being able to recalibrate, encourage, grow all rests on the striving for goodness, for doing the right thing. It does not preclude the existence of evil or the rejection of goodness; it simply suggests that the focus is on the relationships between God and each person. Possibilities are born in that space, that connection and that sense of belief. It is love without condition, and it is more than a one way street.
The Gospel harbors an even greater wonder. It describes one of those moments when Jesus appears to the disciples. They are sharing the story of Emmaus, when he comes to them and they fail to recognize him until the breaking of the bread. And somehow, He arrives again, offers “Peace be with you.” He connects with them, addresses this new situation, and offers more. He explains what they had heard so often before: this time, they could really listen, grow in understanding. It is the very sense that understanding is incremental, a time-oriented processing. Everything about that reasonates with our very human condition. Jesus is giving them the opportunity to learn, to belong to each other and to Him. He is clarifying and creating a truth that runs deep and rich. The words offer each of us that same chance to learn more, to be more, to believe in possibilities unimagined. There is a finitude to it.
Even in a secular society shored up by science, challenging all its traditional sturctures and re-organizing all its insitutions, there is a simplicity to be embraced. The Gospel of this Third Week of Easter initmates the truth that we do belong to each other. We may not always realize it, live like it, or enjoy it, but the truth of it cannot be denied.