Emmaus_(1891)
Easter, Friendship, Resurrection, Scripture
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On the Road to Emmaus

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The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) is one of my all-time favorite Gospel passages to meditate on because there’s just so much there!

It’s a story of journeying in faith. It’s a story of accompaniment: journeying in faith with one another and Christ.

I love how this painting of The Road to Emmaus by Daniel Bonnell helps me imagine myself on that journey with Christ.

emmaus-daniel-bonnell

I think about all who have walked alongside me for a part of my journey in life and faith—both friends and family, in both good times and bad. The image of Christ walking alongside, bringing clarity and insight to our conversations sits deep within my heart.

Think about the times in your life when someone has accompanied you.

Were you able to recognize Christ’s presence or were your eyes “prevented from recognizing him” (Lk 24:16)?

I love how the disciples tell Jesus about what happened to Jesus. It’s like telling God how to do his job! I’ll be the first to admit: I have tried to tell God that whatever was happening wasn’t part of my plans! (Like how hard is it to check the calendar before a crisis befalls?) I imagine Jesus smiling and gently laughing to himself at the absurdity.

Despite knowing what he meant, I still flinch when I hear Jesus’ response to the disciples’ glum interpretation of events: “Oh how foolish you are!” (v.25). Of course Jesus didn’t utter this as a disrespectful insult; that would’ve been inconsistent with his entire way of being. The word “foolish” was more akin to “slow-of-heart,” like the Texas-expression, “Bless your heart; that’s adorable!”  Or simply “Don’t be ridiculous!

Because: Don’t be ridiculous – of course the Messiah had to suffer (v.26). Still, it’s so hard for us to understand why bad things happen to good people. We get stuck on the WHY. The disciples on the Road to Emmaus got stuck on the WHY.

Have you ever gotten stuck on “WHY?”

Although we have the benefit of a post-Resurrection reading of events, the disciples didn’t. Perhaps they were unable to recognize Jesus because it was simply inconceivable that the Messiah would suffer and die.

Technically, yes, the idea that the Messiah had to suffer and die was in Scripture, but it was subtle. Like when I was a kid, my mother often accused me of having selective hearing—something my 12 & 13 year old sons seem to have perfected. The message was there, but it wasn’t what people wanted to hear, so they didn’t hear it.

Perhaps it was only because Jesus re-interpreted all of Scripture for them on the journey, that they could begin to understand.

What are some insights that you are only beginning to understand at this point in your journey?

I love that the story could have ended there. The disciples could have gleaned that insight (Scripture says the Messiah had to suffer and die) and gone off to share what they learned with others.

But instead, as Jesus gave the impression he was going to go, the disciples extended hospitality, “Stay with us” (v.29), and everything changed. We know that they recognized him in the breaking of the bread (v.30-31), but that only happened because they invited him in, and through that invitation to relationship, Christ’s presence became apparent.

Not being able to have people over… not being able to share Easter Sunday dinner with family and friends… not being able to break bread with the Church community and receive Christ in the Eucharist… not being able to literally walk alongside people who are suffering the loss of loved ones… these are among the most difficult parts of the Coronavirus.

What are the most difficult parts of this pandemic for you?

I know I encounter Christ when I extend hospitality; when I invite people in… but I never considered the need to invite Jesus in. I assume he’s there—in faith, I know he’s there. But perhaps I’d more readily recognize his presence if I would invite Jesus in.

How readily do you recognize Christ’s presence?

Do you invite Jesus in?

My favorite verse from this passage is absolutely when the disciples say to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us” (v.32). There have been so many times that I have realized that my heart is on fire! When I do something with the passion that comes from God-given gifts and talents… when I experience a deep connection with someone in a great conversation… when my husband and I experience the synergy of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts… when I have that moment with one of my kids. These are the times my heart was burning within me; these are the times Christ’s presence was intimately known in the depths of my soul.

When have you recognized your “heart burning within”?

Along my life’s journey, I have gotten better at recognizing these moments as encounters with the divine. The story of the Road to Emmaus is a fantastic reminder that our life—our faith—is a journey with Christ, whether we recognize it or not. Though that journey, our faith and our lives are forever changed when we do recognize that Christ has been in our midst all along.


Banner image: Road to Emmaus (1891) by Fritz von Uhde

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Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas Caravaggio
Faith, Hope, Scripture, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation
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Wounds, Scars, and Healing

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Every so often, when discussing a difficult topic, there will be one courageous student that asks the question no one wants to ask but everyone wants answered.

For the longest time, that’s how I thought of Thomas. We label and dismiss him as “Doubting Thomas,” but he didn’t just express the simplistic doubt of, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Thomas asks to touch the wounds.  Thomas asks the question no one wants to ask but everyone wants answered.

Caravaggio’s painting of The Incredulity of St. Thomas captures the gripping curiosity of the rest of the disciples by depicting Peter and John as intense onlookers.

Grounded in the reality of the loss, the pain, the suffering, Thomas needed to see how that woundedness could possibly be healed. So he asks not just to see, but to touch!

Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas Caravaggio

In response, Jesus gently and patiently guides Thomas’s hand into the wound. Though the pain has ended, the scar remains.

Think about that: the wounds—the scars—remain, but they no longer hurt. Instead of pain, exploring woundedness led to the discovery of healing and profound belief.

What has exploring your own woundedness taught you?

It’s interesting, even, that Thomas expected the wounds to be there.

Would you have expected the wounds to disappear in light of the Resurrection? 

This is something to keep in mind as we discuss “returning to normal” after Covid-19. Perhaps we won’t ever quite return to normal. Perhaps that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The wounds will heal, the pain will end, and scars will remain.

Faith and hope in the Resurrection neither denies the pain nor the woundedness.

Faith and hope in the Resurrection expects the scars and probes deeply to touch upon the healing.

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Alleluia
Grace, Hope, Joy, Passion, Transformation
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Celebrating the Hope of Easter

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Happy Easter! Alleluia! He is Risen!

What do Easter joy and Christian hope mean in the time of Covid-19, when Churches are closed as quarantine continues? 

Hope-in-God (in the theological-sense) is not the same thing as hope in the human-sense.

The human-sense of hope is basically having an optimistic state of mind, anticipating or expecting positive outcomes in life.

Our human-sense of hope has been beaten down by the pandemic, by the isolation, by the cancellations and closures. No kidding, the human-sense of hope is having a difficult time not celebrating Easter in Church.

It’s in this space between the human-sense of hope and the theological-sense of hope-in-God that we find Mary Magdalene showing up to anoint the body on the Third Day.

resurrection_day

Perhaps Mary Magdalene didn’t recognize the Resurrected Jesus because she was looking through the eyes of human-hope. Jesus had to help her to see through the eyes of Christian-hope. 

The Good News, the Easter Joy, is that the goodness of God will conquer evil. God will transform pain and suffering into new life and goodness.

Christian-hope is trusting in God’s abiding presence and the promise of God’s goodness.

“To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow.” —Pope Francis (TED Talk April 2017)

The Hope of the Resurrection–the true Easter Joy–is about trusting God to (somehow) bring goodness out of this.

Each of us have seen small blessings begin to emerge… like the decrease in air pollution allowing India to see the Himalayas for the first time in decades.

What goodness (small or large) have you observed or experienced that points to the transforming power of God?

Recognizing and rejoicing in these are goodnesses can help us better recognize God’s grace and better cultivate Christian hope.

Happy Easter! Alleluia! He is Risen!


Banner Artwork “Alleluia” ©Jen Norton. https://www.JenNortonArtStudio.com . Used with permission.  

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Holy Saturday Apostles
Faith, Lent
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Waiting on Holy Saturday

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What happens on Holy Saturday?  …We wait…

It’s the period of in-between – that space between the pain and suffering of Good Friday and the joyful hope of Easter Sunday… this waiting is Holy Saturday.

In the time of Covid-19, those of us who are staying safe-at-home are right here, in the waiting.

Quite often, when we’re in the in-between—no longer in the throes of pain and suffering, and not yet in a place of joyful hope—we find ourselves somewhere in the process of thinking and praying and grieving what we’ve lost.

Here’s the thing that our faith teaches us about this in-between:

God is at work in the waiting.

~~~

Jonah

Recall the story of Jonah, who didn’t want to do the difficult thing God was asking of him. In his stubbornness, Jonah tried to run away aboard a ship, which is when things went from bad to worse. Blamed for the violent storm, he was tossed overboard and assumed he was going to die. “But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). Those three days and three nights must have provided quite a bit of time to wait… and think… and pray… and wait some more… And then, Jonah agreed.

In the waiting, God works in our hearts. 

It was three days and three nights of waiting… and thinking… and praying… for the Apostles as well. Waiting… with grief and sadness.

From their point of view, it didn’t look like anything was happening, but it was. They thought all was lost. But it wasn’t.

God is always at work in the waiting.

Trust God. Even if it doesn’t look like anything is happening… God is always at work in the waiting.

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Three Crosses Pixabay - Free for commercial use
Faith, Lent, Spirituality, Suffering
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Longing and Loss on Good Friday

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Good Friday is the one day of the year that there is no Mass. The tabernacle is empty. There is no Jesus.

Good Friday is the day of the Passion – the suffering and Death of Jesus on the Cross.

There are many years that Good Friday prompts us to dig deep and examine our own sinfulness. For it was sin, selfishness, self-righteousness, greed, and pride that brought Jesus to the Cross.

But that’s not where we are this year.

This year we are suffering. We are grieving. We are physically isolated from community.

Many are sick. Many are unemployed. Many are overworked. Many are mourning.

So many disappointments. So many heartaches. So much lost.

This is the year we need to look to the Cross and know that we are not alone in our suffering.

This is the year we need to hear Jesus Christ, the Son of God, give us permission to cry out, “My God, My God, Why have you abandoned me!”

Although Jesus wasn’t ever actually abandoned by God (nor are we), in the depths of human suffering, it can sometimes feel like it.

Jesus was praying with Scripture. Psalm 22 laments pain and frustration with tremendous detail… and it then shifts. Around verse 21, the Psalmist begins to praise God’s Glory with confidence. We, like Jesus, can lament to God with vivid description and still be People of Faith.

Unable to gather as a community, unable to receive the gift of God’s grace in the Sacraments, unable to pray together as the Body of Christ in our Churches… it does feels very alone.

Photos - 2 of 3

The tabernacle is empty. The Church is empty. This is our very uncomfortable reality, feeling the longing and loss on Good Friday.

If this – the suffering, longing, and loss of Good Friday – is where you are, know that you are not alone… nor are you weak in your faith. Look to the Cross and know that you are not alone.

The essence of our faith is trusting in the knowledge that the suffering and Death of Good Friday is not the end of the story. But it is where we are right now… at least for today.

~~~

Post-Script: A Neighborhood Stations of the Cross

On the morning this reflection was posted, inspired by an idea posted on the Guadalupe Radio Network‘s Houston Facebook Group, my friend and neighbor Coleen asked for help replicating a North Houston neighborhood’s Stations of the Cross. This beautiful idea would allow people to walk/bike/drive the 14 Stations and maintain social distancing while journeying in prayer. Propelled by the grace of the Holy Spirit, our neighborhood Stations in Nassau Bay came together quickly and easily. Mosaic for Blog

Following the directions given by a member of the North Houston’s neighborhood group Prestonwood Prays, around 8am Coleen set out to purchase supplies. At 9am she asked me to gather, print, and laminate the images of the Stations, and then called upon Brooke to coordinate the locations into a coherent path. Together, we quickly found 14 homeowners willing host the sign-post at the edge of their property, and Brooke mapped and organized the locations to form a walkable 3.25 mile loop. Since I had recently put together a simple, Scripture-based, Traditional Stations of the Cross for use on a retreat, I integrated those passages, along with the address of the next Station, onto a second laminated page to be attached to each sign. We announced the opportunity on FaceBook and text, and provided the links to a printable Worship Aid and Map of Locations. Everything was installed and folks were making their pilgrimages by 2pm. After sundown on Good Friday, the Stations were removed and disassembled. We received such an outpour of gratitude from prayerful pilgrims that we will do our best to continue this tradition in the years to come!

Here’s the basic instructions and supplies needed to construct these neighborhood Stations. 

 


The tabernacle at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church was designed with doors that open to the sanctuary on one side, and the stained glass image of the Last Supper on the other. With gratitude to Mark Evangelista for the photo of the empty tabernacle opening to the hand of Christ offering the bread, and Miriam Escobar for the photo open to the empty sanctuary.

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