by Fr. Jerome Molokie, O.Praem.
What dreams have you had that have been completely smashed by the circumstances of life? An odd beginning to a Paschal Sunday’s homily, but there we are. What dreams have you had that have left you humiliated, disappointed, angry, frustrated and sad? I ask this because these are places, oddly enough, where we can encounter God, and most surely. This is not some “Fr. Jerome psychological insight”…and let me go out of subject for a moment here. I remember, one time here at the abbey many years ago, someone came up to me and said, “You only preach on psychology – I like to preach on theology…” Well, let us hope there will be a bit of theology here in the mix, but for the moment, back to smashed dreams. We might have thought of getting into a certain college and not been accepted, or excellence in some field – sports, the arts, business, politics – that was just beyond us, or a crisis in life intervened to make things impossible. We might have hoped for a family member to be healed either spiritually or physically and had it go instead to worse. If we can relate to any of these things – then Cleopas and his fellow companion are our companions as well. In the events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ, they found themselves bereft of all their hopes. We were hoping that He would be the one to redeem Israel.
A profound homilist recently said that these two were escaping Jerusalem – to Emmaus – anything to get away from the reality they had just experienced in the Passion and Death of the Savior. And so they sought to put pain at arm’s length, as do we. The same homilist asked wisely, What is our Emmaus? Do we seek distraction through the Internet? In a martini? In a flurry of useless activity – anything to put away the galling reality of facing a shattered hope?
And Jesus approaches these two dejected souls on their way escape Jerusalem. As is the case with many of the post-resurrection appearances – they do not recognize Him. Isn’t that disturbing? To think that Christ Himself could be standing right before you and be missed, doesn’t it give you pause? Now, it must be admitted, the words of the Gospel mention that their “eyes were prevented from recognizing Him….” so perhaps it was not entirely their fault. But it is still troubling.
Now we arrive at things it would be wise to note, because they will help us get to heaven. Firstly, they listened to Him speak – explaining the words of the scriptures, the true mission of the Messiah. Next, they urged Him to remain with them when it appeared to them He was going to go on further. And this remaining with Jesus is what set up their eyes to recognize Him when He broke bread at their meal.
When our dreams are smashed, even in those times we may react very badly to that reality, it is important, I think, to remember two essential things: First, to continue to stay in touch with God through prayer, even if it feels pointless, arid, and said through gritted teeth. It is only by remaining with Christ that we can come to receive Him. And if we have faith, we know that everything, repeat everything, comes to us from God’s providential hand, whether the good He wills or the evil He permits. If we continue to say, “Remain with us; remain with me…” even if things do not immediately become crystal clear, we will at least have proven ourselves wise in seeking out this best of companions and truest of friends. Next, and just as important, if we have had a dream smashed – and here I am not speaking of wishing something and not working hard enough for it, but truly a dream that was not, it would seem, meant to be – it is for one reason: we were not dreaming big enough, not even close. I have often said that if God were to show us what is in store for us who have loved Him, we would die of joy. But I think, short of death, say if He concealed just enough of it so we wouldn’t die, I think we’d be almost…embarrassed. There would be a sense of saying, “You really want to do that for me?!?!” We don’t take the Lord and His promises seriously enough.
So if you find yourself discouraged, even to the point of not feeling capable of having dreams anymore – know that Someone has very big plans on your behalf, and all you need to do is ask Him to remain with you while you remain trusting in those plans. It really is that simple.
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