Walking with the Risen Christ
During this Easter season, we boldly proclaim that indeed, Christ is risen! We celebrate that Jesus is truly alive and accompanies us. It is His passion, death and resurrection that welcome us into a new and eternal life.
What is your favorite Scripture traditionally proclaimed during the Easter Season? I have many because of the radical and transformative nature of these liturgical days. One of my favorites, however, is the road to Emmaus.
As Jesus’ disciples walked on the road to Emmaus, they discussed the Lord’s death and passion. They had hoped for a Messiah and were disappointed by His death. They did not understand the crucifixion or the resurrection and had literally decided to find a new path in life. It is important to note that, rather than walking toward Jerusalem, they had decided to walk far away from Jerusalem. In other words, they had decided to turn their backs on Jesus and take their lives in another direction.
At some point in our lives, many of us are confronted with the same dilemma as the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Do I continue walking toward and with Jesus, or do I take another path, away from Jesus?” Or we might even say, “Do I stay and follow Jesus in the Church? Or do I quit and leave?”
In the more than 26 years of my priesthood, I am blessed to have spent five years on the faculty of Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake. During my time there, I will never forget a seminarian who shared a powerful story with me.
After many years of discernment, he applied to Mundelein Seminary and was accepted to study for the priesthood for his diocese. On the drive to his move-in day, he was suddenly flooded with doubts. “What if I am making the wrong choice? What if I misunderstood and that really was not the voice of God I heard calling me to study for the priesthood? What if I am not smart enough to pass the theology courses? What if I am not happy?”
As those “what if” questions continued to plague him, he kept driving toward the seminary, trusting in the Lord.
However, as he approached the entrance to the seminary on Route 176, he quickly veered the opposite way and turned into the entrance of Carmel High School across the street. Sitting in his car across the street from the seminary, he gazed at the imposing gates and asked himself, “Do I enter? Or do I just drive away?”
He said it felt like an eternity as he sat there, sweating and contemplating his future. Suddenly, he was jolted out of his trance by the sound of the seminary’s chapel bells, ringing in the distance. At that moment, he turned to the Lord in prayer and asked, “What do You want from me?” He admits that he did not hear an actual voice say to him, “Come, follow me.” Instead, he felt a deep peace which assured him that it was okay for him to enter the seminary and take the next step. With that, he drove onto the seminary grounds.
He continued to discern and allowed the Holy Spirit to lead and guide him throughout his years of formation and studies. I am happy to report that he was ordained and continues to exude great joy in his priesthood. He is not only grateful for God’s call to the priesthood, but is also relieved that, accompanied by Jesus he made the turn into the seminary on that providential day.
On the Road to Emmaus, it was Jesus who was walking and talking with the disciples. However, they did not recognize Him until the breaking of the bread. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they exclaimed, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking to us on the road?” (Luke 24:32). Overwhelmed with the presence of Christ, they turned around and walked back to Jerusalem. Simply put, they returned to following Christ and eagerly sharing the Good News.
We all have our own questions of “What if?” accompanied by doubts and discouragements in our lives. Spiritually, if we are ever faced with a moment in which we are tempted to turn away from Jesus or His Church, let us be inspired by the road to Emmaus and walk with each other as we are nourished by the breaking of the bread, the Eucharist, And let us remember that we are never alone. We are never abandoned. Jesus accompanies us on the journey. He is our hope and our salvation. For indeed, Christ is risen!