The disciples of Jesus reveled in all of the attention “their rabbi” was receiving. Wherever he went throngs of people assembled just to get a glimpse of the Holy One. Their entry into Jerusalem with him was a sort of vindication for some of the suspicion which had been visited up them and especially their rabbi in towns and villages where they responded to the real needs of people. Then came the ultimate betrayal from one among their own company. What followed was passion and death a real sense of defeat from that moment of triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Then there was that empty tomb that somehow seemed to give credence to all of the naysayers. All seemed to be in a downward spiral: fear and cynicism were on the rise, joy and hope seemed diminished.
Living the Paschal Mystery is to fully embrace all of these elements. To walk with Jesus is to acknowledge that there is questioning, suspicion, triumph, betrayal, judgment, injustice, death, sorrow, uncertainty, hope and joy. When things are not going our way or when we seem to be in a state of paradigm paralysis or decline it is very easy for us to lose our way. Confusion, blame and cynicism are often time exhibited when focus is lost. The Catholic Christian is not shielded from such desperation. We are constantly challenged to bring our faith, what we believe, into the public square of our families, work places, civic communities and even our ecclesial communities. When we encounter the empty tombs in our own life do we simply throw up our hands in desperation?
The empty tomb is the portal through which we must go in order to experience the recognition of the Lord in our journey as church. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus we encounter the Lord in simple ways throughout our own lives and in the most profound way each and every time we come together to celebrate the Eucharist. Through this experience of the Risen Lord we are strengthened in our faith and nourished to continue the journey of building God’s Kingdom in our midst avoiding the easy path of desperate behavior in the blame game. Sometimes this means strengthening that which we are already doing so that those who follow us will receive wonderful ways of sharing and celebrating faith. Other times we are challenged to be open to assessing what we are doing, what is working, what is no longer effective and how we need to restructure in order to continue to support our mission of building God’s Kingdom in our midst.
The Road to Emmaus is a powerful image of how even the most faith-filled among us can miss the point. God knows our imperfections. God knows our hearts. That is why the celebration of Paschal Joy continues for 50 days until the Solemnity of Pentecost. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles then and upon us now is how we, though imperfect and sometimes unsure, receive the Paraclete to guide us on our way. It is the Paraclete, that personal presence of God’s Spirit, who gently and powerfully rests upon us helping us to see in all that is around us the goodness of God and the triumph of life and hope over cynicism and despair. During this great season of paschal joy may we re-commit ourselves to an openness that enables us to grow as instruments of God’s grace throughout our discipleship journey.
Reverend Fr. Jeffrey E. Lee, MDiv, MA, ThM, a priest of the Diocese of Trenton, currently serves as the Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Trenton and as Chair of the Diocesan Commission for Expansion & Restructuring in the Department of Pastoral Planning.