Tragedies are a common part of the human experience - but God is always present.
The late night knock on the door by a policeman to inform a mother and father that their teenage child was killed in a car accident; the wife who is abandoned by an unfaithful husband; the man who loses his job; people, young and old, that are diagnosed with a fatal illness.
These are just some of the tribulations that afflict humanity. All of these situations cause such personal devastation that people just give up on God and no longer attend church or even pray.
The disciples of Emmaus were devastated by the death of Jesus. They had come to the conclusion that the new way of life that Jesus had started was finished. The devastation caused powerful negative feelings to cloud their ability to reason and therefore, they could no longer see clearly. A deep feeling of discouragement crushed them. Frustrated and disheartened, they left Jerusalem.
As the two disciples were walking back to Emmaus, the risen Jesus appears to them. Their minds and hearts clouded by overpowering negative emotions did not allow them to recognize Jesus.
How many times, like the disciples of Emmaus, when tragedy and tribulations occur in our lives, are we so overwhelmed by negative emotions that we are unable to see that Jesus is by our side? We must understand that even in the darkest moments, even though we may be engulfed by irrational feelings, Jesus is there. He knows what we are going through. His hand is still there to lift us up precisely because he is risen and not dead.
My dear friends, many times we do not recognize that Jesus is with us because we seek consolations in the things of this world. We escape from sadness by seeking comfort in overeating, excessive entertainment, too much work and even sometimes in drugs, alcohol, and illicit pleasures. The overpowering force of emotions are only repressed by these forms of escapes and we forget that the only one who can heal us is the one who has risen from the dead; i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ.
The encounter that the disciples of Emmaus experience with Jesus, illustrates to us that we will find vitality and strength in Jesus who is really present in the Eucharist: “and it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him…” (Luke 24: 30-31).
No matter what happens in our lives, the risen Jesus is always with us.
The Eucharist is a physical reality. The Eucharist is the risen Lord. This is where we can encounter him – in the tabernacle, at Mass, at adoration, during our devout reception of Holy Communion.
Wherever a sanctuary lamp is burning, we can encounter the risen Lord. He comforts us and strengthens us with his true, real and sacramental presence.
Before the Blessed Sacrament we can pray with the words of Saint Padre Pio:
“Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late and the day is coming to a close and life passes: death, judgment, eternity approaches. It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will stop along the way and for that, I need you. It is getting late and death approaches. I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows. O how I need you, my Jesus, in this night of exile.
“Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its danger. I need you. I need you.
“Let me recognize you as your disciples did at the breaking of the bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion be the light which disperses the darkness, the force which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.”
“Peace be with you.” These are the first words of the risen Jesus and this is his gift to us.
No matter what is going on in our lives, no matter what is going on around us, no matter what evil may attack us – peace. Go to the tabernacle. Go to Mass every day. Nourish yourself with the risen Lord. Let him lift you up from the darkness of discouragement. Let him fill you with his peace. “Peace be with you.”
Fr. James Farfaglia is the Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, TX. You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org.