“Jerusalem is my home/Guard Me/Walk with Me/Do not leave me here/My place is not here/My kingdom is not here”. These are the words in translation of the south African dance song Jerusalema by Master KG, a song which has inspired the world through these pandemic days to dance. ITV, a British Television program declares: “it is the dance craze uniting the world...from monks in Israel, to nuns in Africa, from the beaches of India, to the supermarkets of France...”
The first time I saw a compilation of these dances and the spirit within them, I was filled with joy and amazement at the human spirit in these times. One video quotes Master KG sharing: “I knew I wanted this to be a spiritual song.”
What strikes me is that the whole world is praying with their bodies these beautiful words as they dance. I cannot think of a better image to contemplate the events happening in today's gospel.
This resurrection event begins in a strange way. The Emmaus disciples who met Jesus on the road returned to Jerusalem “where they found the Eleven and the rest of the company assembled” there. As they were sharing their story, the text tells us “Jesus actually stood in their midst.” Jesus appears to them and spooks them a bit. The element of complete surprise overcomes them.
At first the company is frightened, taken aback. But as the conversation continues, their sentiment changes to “sheer joy and wonder,” “incredulity,” “amazement.” And as their uncertainty turns to amazement, Jesus takes it a step further and inquires: Do you have anything here to eat? Offered a piece of fish, we are told “the savior ate in their presence.”
The fleshiness of this text is evident. Jesus is noticed by those gathered when he proclaims: “Peace be with you.” Those witnessing the event “thought they were seeing a ghost".. Jesus cares for the company and invites them to “touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones.”
A few details should not be missed. The Emmaus disciples had departed Jerusalem and were sad when they first encountered Jesus on the road. They were confused and uncertain. Then, after Jesus blessed and broke the bread with them, he vanished. The text tells us the disciples immediately “returned to Jerusalem” to meet the other gathered disciples. The two Emmaus disciples join or rejoin the Jerusalem disciples.
As the Emmaus disciples are witnessing their encounter with Jesus and sharing their tale with the remaining band of disciples, Jesus appears again, surprising them all. After he concretely arrives in the flesh, he helps them to understand the scriptures and their role and call as witnesses.
“You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus tells them. “Repentance, for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem...” This is very good news. Beautiful news. Glorious news. And for the first disciples, this unexpected and surprising event filled them joy.
The Jerusalema dance craze seems to me a beautiful sign of the resurrection. It is a joyful dance filled with life and fullness during a very difficult year in our world. Some of the dancers even eat dinner as they move to the music. And the meaning of the song created by Master KG draws our attention back to Jerusalem, the centerfold of our most sacred story; the place where it all happened—the dying, the rising, the witnessing and the sending forth.
None of the Jerusalem disciples expected to meet the resurrected Jesus when he appeared to them. He surprised them with joy. “This is a song and dance craze bringing global joy at such difficult times,” announcedITV. This past year has been filled with confusion, sorrow, and fear. Collectively and individually we have lost, we are grieving, and we are uncertain about our future. Our sorrow and fear is not so different from the first disciples of Jesus. But notice what happens in the midst of their distress and confusion. Jesus appears. He eats with them, maybe he even dances with them. And they are filled with amazement, sheer joy, wonder, fullness.
Catherine of Siena wrote: “...that’s how Life conquered Death, by utterly destroying it. Life and death fought and death was utterly defeated, and God’s resurrected Life gives us life. May God set you on fire with love. Gentle Jesus. Gentle Jesus. Jesus, gentle Jesus.”
Let us pray together with Master KG, the Spirit of God who dances within us, the Jerusalem disciples, the saints, our wise ancestors, the angels and one another: Jerusalem is our home/Guard us/Walk with us/Eat with us/DANCE with us/for your Kingdom, your Reign is here.
Christy M. Hicks Aydt
Christy M. Hicks Aydt
Christy M. Hicks Aydt is a Campus Minister at Saint Louis University and a spiritual director; also trained in the 19th Annotation, the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Most of her career has been ministering to young people on college campuses. Prior to working at Saint Louis University, Christy worked as an Acquisition Editor at Liguori Publications for two years. In 2010-2011, she spent a year in India and Nepal. Though her studies have been through the lens of Catholic-Christian faith and thought, she reverences the faith and beauty other faith traditions share. Eastern spirituality and culture has gifted her with a more expansive image of God. Christy lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and family.
Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies, University of Dayton. Certification in Spiritual Direction; Preaching Training, Aquinas Institute of Theology. Spiritual Companion/Director for the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
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