By FR. ROLANDO DELA ROSA, O.P.
Time crawls slowly during the extended community quarantine. As we struggle against a gnawing sense of uncertainty, boredom, fear, and anger, many of us feel we are at the end of our rope.
Most likely, a crisis of faith brews inside many of us in this situation. We want God to intervene but He seems to have chosen to remain silent and indifferent. We want to lash out at God with this stream of bitter complaints:
“Though my feet had not strayed from your path,
yet you have crushed me in a place of sorrows
and covered me with the shadow of death.
I am brought down low to the dust,
my body lies flat on the earth.
Stand up and come to my help,
and deliver me if you love me!”
The story of the two disciples in the gospel reading today serves as a template for our struggle to continue believing even when we are undergoing a crisis of faith.
The two disciples have pinned all their hopes on Jesus, only to be disappointed when they saw Him arrested, mercilessly tortured, and crucified like a criminal (Luke 24:13-35).
Tormented by doubts and skepticism, they initially choose the easy way out. They flee towards a village named Emmaus as if the best way to resolve a crisis is to escape and pretend that it doesn’t exist.
To their dismay, even if they have left Jerusalem, the memory of what had happened there pursues them. But the gospel tells us that a surprise awaits them along the way: they encounter Jesus right where the crisis catches up with them. Jesus meets them where they are, and then moves them to where He wants them to be.
The two disciples realize later that when Jesus seems absent, it is when He is closest to them. And no matter how far they run, no matter how low they have sunk because of their wavering faith and skepticism, Jesus comes to bring them to a place of maturity and deeper faith. He asks them only one thing in return: to trust Him no matter what they feel.
It takes them the long journey to Emmaus to achieve this. By the time the disciples regain their faith in Jesus, night has set in—a metaphor that illustrates the fact that oftentimes, a crisis is not resolved until we hit rock bottom. But rock bottom isn’t that bad at all, because even before we get there, Jesus has already prepared the place for us, and sees to it that we find Him there. The theme song from the movie “The Cardinal” is a good meditation piece for all of us who are buffeted by doubts about God’s presence in our lives:
“Should my heart not be humble, should my eyes fail to see,
Should my feet sometimes stumble on the road,
Stay with me.
Like the lamb that in springtime wandered far from the fold,
Comes the darkness and the frost, I get lost, I grow cold.
Though I grope and I blunder, and I’m weak and I’m wrong,
Though the road buckles under where I walk, walk along.
Till I find to my wonder every path leads to Thee,
All that I can do is pray, stay with me.
Stay with me.”
Like those two disciples traveling to Emmaus, we find it difficult to believe in Jesus when our whole world is caving in. But true faith is toughened through testing. Such faith enables us to see humor even in the most hopeless case and allows us to say with a smile:
“Everything will be all right in the end.
So if everything is not all right,
It’s not yet the end.”