Be An Agent of Positive Encounters
Lord, you will show us the path of life! (Psalm 16)
Fr. Anthony de Mello shared a gripping story of a traveler who was walking along the road one day when a man on horseback rushed by. There was an evil look in his eyes and blood on his hands. Minutes later a crowd of horse riders drew up and wanted to know if the traveler had seen someone with blood on his hands go by. They were in hot pursuit of him. “Who is he?” the traveler asked. “An evil-doer,” said the leader of the crowd. “And you pursue him in order to bring him to justice?” asked the traveler. “No,” said the leader, “we pursue him in order to show him the way.” [Fr. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1990), p. 65.]
The suffering and death of Jesus shocked his disciples and triggered them to feel afraid, anxious, sad, lost, and some were guilty with a blood on their hands. But the Risen Lord appeared to them, removing their doubts, fears, sadness, guilt, and giving them the opportunity to experience his glorious resurrection. Most amazingly, Christ was the one taking the initiatives for the disciples to find the way towards a deeper encounter with the Risen Savior. He pursued them in order to show the path of life!
This Sunday we have a beautiful story that I call “Encountering Jesus on the Road to Emmaus.” Like last Sunday when the Risen Lord appeared to the disciples with the blessing of “Peace be with you!” and then, appeared again for the unbelieving Thomas, the encounter with Jesus on the Road to Emmaus tells a similar story of God reaching out to us. Why? The Risen Lord is the only one who can transform our painful injuries into merciful healing, our doubts into faith, our despairs into hope, our darkness into light, and our sadness into joy.
On the Road to Emmaus, the two disciples who failed to recognize Jesus said this: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) They felt something great when Jesus spoke to them, broke the bread and opened the Scriptures – familiar gifts to them and us, Catholics! God pursued them and helped them know the path of life, so that they can share the experience to others. Like the other appearances, the reaction to the experience was to share the experience with enthusiasm! It is a great rejoicing to encounter the Lord and it should be shared with jubilations.
How about us? What is our experience with the Risen Lord amid COVID-19? How can we share the Risen Lord amid COVID-19? I understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is limiting us and stopping so many things that we love doing, but let me share with you two stories:
First, several years ago, a group of computer salesmen from Milwaukee went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in time for dinner. But the meeting ran overtime, and the men had to run fast to the railway station with their tickets in hand. As they were running through the terminal, one man accidentally kicked over a table supporting a basket of apples. Without stopping, all the men reached the train and boarded it with sighs of relief. But one of them stopped, feeling bad for the boy whose apple stand had been overturned. He waved goodbye to his companions and returned to the boy. He was glad he had because the ten-year-old boy was blind. The salesman gathered up the apples and noticed that several of them were bruised. He reached into his wallet and said to the boy, “Here, please take this ten-dollar bill for the damage we did. I hope it won’t spoil your day.” As he started to walk away, the bewildered boy called after him, “Are you Jesus?” (Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Jesus comes to us in various disguises, even during our fears and anxieties due to COVID-19. But we can help others by stopping amid our fears and anxieties to make the people in need and vulnerable think, remember, and experience Jesus.
Finally, a young boy was walking home through the park after his Sunday school class. Somehow, he couldn’t stop thinking about the lesson for that day about Jesus’ teaching on the Last Judgment. What impressed him most was what the teacher said, “When you give something to another person, you’re really giving it to Jesus, and you will find the risen Jesus in everyone you meet.” As he continued through the park, he noticed an old woman sitting on a bench. She looked lonely and hungry. So he sat down next to her, took a chocolate bar he had saved and offered some to her. She accepted it with a beautiful smile, and he watched her smiles as she chewed the chocolate. Then they sat together in silence, just smiling at each other. Finally, the boy got up to leave. As he began to walk away, he turned, ran back to the bench, and gave the woman a big hug. When he arrived home, his mother saw a big smile on his face and asked, “What made you so happy today?” He said, “I shared my chocolate bar with Jesus.” Before his mother could ask more questions, he added, “You know, she has the most beautiful smile in the world.” Meanwhile, the old woman returned to her little apartment where she lived with her sister. “You’re all smiles,” said her sister. “What made you so happy today?” She replied, “I was sitting in the park, eating a chocolate bar with Jesus. And, you know, he looks a lot younger than I expected.” (Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Amid COVID-19, we can become the unexpected persons to help people encounter the Risen Lord. We can help them experience the Lord so that their sadness is transformed into joy, making them smile by our simple acts of kindness.