Walking The Road To Emmaus

Several years ago, I had the unique opportunity to attend an evening talk given by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, a Capuchin priest from Italy. In addition to authoring several outstanding books, Father Cantalamessa is the official preacher to the papal household. This means that he preaches to the Holy Father and to the Vatican hierarchy during Advent and Lent each year. Father Cantalamessa is also known for being a very powerful advocate for the Charismatic Renewal within the Catholic Church, having experienced his own spiritual conversion decades ago.

I waited in the crowded room to catch my first glimpse of this holy man, who holds a very prestigious position in the Church. He was introduced with a long biography of his many accomplishments and honors. Soon he took the podium, clad in the habit of his Capuchin order. The group to which he was speaking was the Twin Cities Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Needless to say, this group of charismatic Catholics was anxious to hear the story of Father Cantalamessa’s own charismatic experience, one that dramatically changed the direction of his faith life and ministry.

Father Cantalamessa began by acknowledging the subject he expected he would be asked to address: namely, his own Holy Spirit experience. Instead, the good preacher gave a beautiful talk about the empty tomb of Christ, and how this is the central aspect of our lives as Catholics. Jesus’ death and resurrection is really what our life of faith is all about. Everything about our Catholic faith leads us back to this central reality. The message was not lost on this group, hungry to hear more about Father’s own charismatic experience. This preacher of world renown talked about the power of the resurrection, and how we are people of the resurrection. The joy we experience at Easter is meant to carry throughout all of our life.

In our gospel this weekend, we read the story of the Road to Emmaus. Two men find themselves on the road to a place called Emmaus, just a few miles from the site of the crucifixion of Christ. The gospel writer tells us that they are discussing all that has happened in these days. Jesus joins them and inquires about their conversation. He walks with them, teaches them and then accepts their invitation to join them for a meal. And we read in this story that they come to know him “in the breaking of the bread,” as he says the blessing and breaks the bread at the table. They recognize that it is Jesus who has been walking with them and they recall how their hearts were burning as he spoke to them.

This gospel story is rich with meaning on many different levels. How often has Jesus walked with us in the moments of our life, and yet we were prevented from recognizing him? It is so often the case that in the moments when we are most challenged by pain and suffering, we often feel that Jesus is miles away. Here the two men walk along with the Savior, and yet they don’t recognize that it is Jesus who is in their midst! Sometimes it can feel like Jesus has abandoned us or suddenly become unavailable when we feel we need him most. On this amazing walk together, Jesus breaks not only the bread but also breaks open the Word for his companions. At every Mass, we come to know Jesus both in the Liturgy of the Word and in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

We are people who have witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As modern-day disciples, we are called to share the Good News with those we meet. There are so many opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ. It can be something as simple as opening the door for someone on the way into a store or an office. We may greet someone with a smile and a “hello” or a “good morning.” We can open up brief conversations with people in the checkout line, at the bus stop or after Mass. These are just a few ways to bring Christ into our midst in the course of our daily lives.

I hope you can see yourself in this beautiful story of the road to Emmaus. I can certainly see myself as I listen to the progression of the conversation and witness the faith that is being strengthened in these two men, as they walk along with Jesus. This story is really the story of our own lives in Christ. Jesus meets us on the road of life. Sometimes we are heading to a particular place, or intent on a particular purpose. At other times we are wandering, not sure where we are going and not sure if the Lord is along for the ride or not. Somehow or other, we always seem to arrive at our “Emmaus,” that place where we find Jesus opening the scriptures and breaking the bread. If you’re like me, a peace washes over us, as we realize that Jesus is right beside us, loving us into relationship with him and with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jesus Christ has risen, and he joins us in the ordinary moments of our lives. Let us open our minds and our hearts to meet him on our own road to Emmaus.

In the spirit of Christ the Servant,

Deacon Tim

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