REFLECTION: Who Travels With You?

Pope Benedict XVI suggests that “Emmaus is really everywhere; the road that leads there is the path of every Christian, indeed, every human being.” From the time we develop the gift of reason, our journeys are adventures that seek to understand the past, find joy in the present, and plot the course for the future. We are constantly in dialogue with ourselves, others, and God. We try to put together the pieces of the past so that we can understand how we came to be where we are today and what we need to do to face tomorrow. We reach for voices that can help us interpret and learn from events and circumstances that have affected us, helping us understand where life has brought us. We need to listen to the right voices as we ponder a pivotal question: where will my life’s road end? If we are not cautious, we can easily be deceived.

When we walk through life with our heads held high, spunk in our steps, and eyes twinkling bright with glances to heaven, all is right with the world; it is easier to see God’s hand. God’s glory dances in myriad ways around us, and His loving presence holds our hand as we exhale songs of praise. When life’s disappointments, challenges, and difficulties are in recession, and the warmth of joy’s rays are shining on our faces, it is easier to see God’s love and guidance. Everything is in sync. But, when sorrow, failure, disappointment, and fear weigh us down, our eyes are fixed downward, and we walk through life looking downcast. We carry heavy burdens. We see not what is above but what is below and easily tire from the sacks we carry. It is harder to see God’s love when we are hurting and feeling betrayed or abandoned. Finding meaning in life’s ugliness can be an arduous task indeed. We need a discerning eye.

Is God a real Being or simply an idea that we entertain? Often, we reduce God to a set of ideas, rules, expectations, theories, and principles and neglect seeing him as a Real Presence who walks with us. What are we expecting God to do? If we expect God to rearrange and fix the disjointed and broken furniture of our lives, we may end up very disappointed. Even the disciples on the Road of Emmaus suffered from this myopic short-sightedness. They expected Jesus to put Israel back together, save it from the Romans and redeem it! That’s what they were hoping for! Instead, he was killed, and they were seemingly left alone with all of their broken furniture. Their misconceived expectations blinded them to what was really going on. We lose our sight, too. Our hope gets displaced.

God’s Word wonderfully keeps it all in balance. It holds together life and death, suffering and healing, grace and sin, joy and despair, justice and injustice, and faith and doubt. The Word, who was with God from the beginning, bursts forth into the Word made flesh with creative love, sustaining and creating all things for all times and in all ages. The Word, captured in the pages of Scripture, is the only thing that can interpret our lives and help us find the presence of God. The Word alone helps us lift our eyes from what is below and fix them on what is above, regardless of time and circumstance. The Word helps us walk with purpose and determination, reminding us how foolish we are not to believe all that has gone before us. We need to trust that our companions in faith, whose lives of fidelity and witness abound in Sacred Scripture, are here to help us and interpret all that is happening.

We are called to walk with purpose and listen to and notice things that may not at first be apparent. We must allow the One who has a special claim on our soul to enlighten, instruct and inspire us! The incarnate Mystery of God is pulsating in and through all of creation, which is where the presence of the Word who became flesh can be discovered. He has been with us all along. How could we have missed him? We can become too preoccupied with ourselves and forget which kingdom is the one to which we must give our allegiance. We forget that we travel a road whose destiny ends here but whose end is in eternity. Sometimes, our slowness to understand is intentional as we struggle with whether our will or God’s will is supposed to be done. We allow all of the busyness to rob us of the silence needed to “be” and understand.

There is something mystically, simply, majestically, and profoundly beautiful and centering about the Eucharist. A presence is discovered there in the simplicity of some of God’s most basic gifts: flour, water, and fruit. It’s almost so simple that we find it hard to believe. Wouldn’t God want to make a grander and more spectacular entrance into our lives? God chooses to walk as we walk, beside us and with us, feeling as we feel. It is an incredible moment of connection when we “take and eat,” becoming one with all our brothers and sisters and one with our God, our Emmanuel (God with us). There as we take and eat, our eyes are opened as we stand before the cross and death, the grave and life. It is there where not with words or thoughts but with the profound language of our souls, we give voice to our faith that God is here and all is well. The eyes of our hearts are lifted high above the cross, beyond the tensions and tragedies of life. And, for a moment, it all makes sense, we see clearly, and all is well. We must rest and learn to see with the eyes of our souls.

In listening deeply to the enlightenment that comes from the Word made flesh and the written word of Sacred Scripture and the nourishment and encounter that is discovered in the Eucharist, we become more like Christ. In becoming more like Christ, we gain confidence and are able to walk through whatever life brings with head held high. Our traveling companions of faith, hope, and love are with us.