May 8: We must be open to our encounter with the Lord
In the journey of our lives there are many people who accompany us. Some, like our families and closest friends, walk with us through most or the entirety of that journey. Others we have for only a short period of time, perhaps even for only for a few fleeting moments. There are many thousands of fellow sojourners whose names we do not even know – any of the hundreds of people we see at Mass, even if it is just visiting a church while on vacation.
When I was on a retreat a few years ago the priest recounted a story from a parish where he said Mass. Every Sunday at his Mass there was the typical group of teenaged boys who stood in the back of the church and there was the usual assembly of the older generation who attended the same Mass.
He said that on one occasion he asked the young men why they came to Mass every week and one of the kids pointed to an elderly man and said – “it is him, the energy and effort it takes him to come here week after week helps me to realize how important it is in life to have this.”
The priest thought that impressive and as he spoke on occasion to the man in question he took the opportunity to ask him why he came every week and among his remarks he said “those boys in the back of the church let me know that there is hope for the future.”
Two distinct individuals who never met each other recognized in each other the commonality of faith and the journey to eternal life. They stood as means of evangelization for each other.
As we journey into this Easter Season, we hear the account of Cleopas and his traveling companion on their way to Emmaus. While discussing the reports of the Resurrection of Jesus among themselves they encountered a stranger who asked to accompany them on their walk.
They did not realize that they were in the presence of the Resurrected Christ as they walked along with this stranger. Even as he opened the Scriptures to them and explained all they needed to know to understand the events that had occurred in Jerusalem over the past three days, they still did not fully apprehend in whose presence they were until he broke the bread with them, fully revealing himself to them. Only then are they able to return to the disciples with the news that they, too, had encountered the Resurrected One.
If we allow ourselves to be open to the presence of God, we too can experience the presence of Christ in our fellow travelers on this spiritual journey.
Yet, there is much that prevents us from this experience. Our own blindness, our failure to be open, the hurts, jealousies and sinfulness can become such a hindrance for us that we fail to experience Jesus in the day-to-day moments of our lives.
At the very core of the spiritual life is our encounter with God. While we most completely experience the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist – as did the disciples on the road to Emmaus – there are so many other subtle and profound ways that we encounter the Risen Lord.
Like St. Francis of Assisi who encountered Christ in the presence of a leper, we are called to set aside those prejudices and preconceptions that blind us from the encounter, leaving our hearts burning within us as we fail to recognize the presence of God in the ordinariness of our daily lives.
Dr. Garry Koch is a seminarian for the Diocese of Trenton.[[In-content Ad]]