As a high school senior, I had it all figured out: I was going to go off to a small, super-Catholic college with my best friend and future roommate, and together, she and I would start running the campus, and eventually, the world.
And you know what? I got into that school, and so did she. But then she got the scholarships and I didn't. And I got an offer I couldn't refuse from another school . . . four hours away from her and our plans for worldwide domination.
So she went to her school, and I went to mine. That definitely wasn't a part of the plan.
With that, their eyes were opened
I've always loved the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). We seem to hear it every year around this time, when the Mass readings are all about the craziness of the early Church and the Resurrection appearances of Jesus.
This moment in Scripture is one for the record books: it's the first Easter, and Jesus has appeared to the women who came to visit the tomb. That same day, two of His disciples are on their way out of town – the death of Jesus certainly wasn't a part of their plan. They’ve decided that this Jesus thing is not panning out, and so they leave Jerusalem to go home.
But while they're high-tailing it out of town, Jesus appears to them but they don’t realize it’s Him. He asks why they're so bummed, and they tell Him how it all went down … they thought Jesus was the real deal, but He suffered and died, and that was three whole days ago. And even though some women from the group saw a vision of angels at the tomb, the facts are the facts. Jesus is gone, and He isn't coming back.
So Jesus shakes His head, and spells it all out. He walks with them through every reference in the Scriptures that pointed to Him, and when they arrive at their destination, He stays for dinner. When He celebrates Mass with them, the light bulb goes on. They finally recognize Him and He immediately disappears.
'Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?' they say. Then they immediately run back to Jerusalem to tell the others what they've seen.
So, he's alive. So what?
I've been disappointed in my life … disappointed by family members not showing up, or friends who turn on me, or when I work hard for something that I fail to achieve. I was disappointed that I wasn't going to college with my very best friend.
But I cannot imagine how disappointed these two disciples were. They gave up EVERYTHING to follow Jesus. And then He died, and it appeared that He stayed dead.
I'd probably be on my way home, too. Because, in a way, I have felt like they felt. Maybe you have, too.
We've been on the great retreats, attended the amazing youth conferences, heard the killer homilies, felt the graces of Confession, gotten into the power of the Triduum. We've heard His voice and felt His presence. Everything is working according to plan.
And then, a little time goes by . . . a couple hours, a couple days, a couple weeks. And the feelings are gone. And it feels like Jesus is gone, too.
And now, our eyes are open
Maybe it seems like Jesus has gone . . . suddenly, He becomes distant and quiet, sometimes at the moments when you need Him the most. And that's when we're tempted to pack it all up, and head back to our old life, because this Jesus thing isn't really working.
But the reality for us is the same as it was for those two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus is always walking with us, talking to us, and teaching us . . . even when we fail to recognize His presence.
He may not be conforming to our plans, but that doesn't mean He isn't our best plan.
Because He wanted me at one school, and my best friend at another – and, even though we've lived in different parts of the country ever since, we are still best friends. Our relationship is the strongest it has even been – because we both have a relationship with Him.
We have all felt separated from Jesus. When he seems the most silent, seek him in the places where He is always present: the Scriptures and the Eucharist. Because He is the Word made Flesh, walking with us and talking to us, 24/7.
Sometimes, our hearts will burn for Him, and sometimes they won't. But whether or not we're 'feeling it,' the reality is simple: He didn't stay dead. He's alive … and He's walking along the road, right next to us, the whole time.