The Paschal Journey I travel each year during Lent and Easter has always been such a gift to me, a realization that I am being called to get back on the road, the road in which I am aware of Jesus’ presence by my side each step of the way to continue his mission and message of love.
Jesus himself travelled many roads in life, some alone and some with his disciples. At the beginning of Lent, he is tempted by the devil in the desert, but not overcome. The angels came and ministered to him. I am called to ponder my own temptations, overcome them, and be bathed with Jesus’ loving mercy.
After leaving the desert, Jesus goes out to the highways and byways performing miracles, teaching his disciples the Gospel way, and calling them forth to carry on his mission of mercy, forgiveness, and love. He frequently takes them aside to share with them his upcoming crucifixion and resurrection. As it became clear that his crucifixion was imminent, he no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples before time for the Passover.
During Holy Week, I join Jesus on the Road of the Triduum. On Holy Thursday, I share a special supper with my Sisters in the monastery, followed by the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper in which I witness Jesus’ gift of loving service in the washing of the feet and hear his reminder that “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should do also” John 13:15.
On Good Friday, I find myself with Jesus on the Road to Calvary. In a spirit of silence, I listen to the long Passion narrative (John 18:1-19:42), witnessing Jesus’ sacrifice of extravagant love for all.
On Holy Saturday I find myself on the Road of Betwixt and Between, trying to silently listen for the meaning of the Paschal Mystery, yet realizing there are many last minute preparations for the glorious celebration of Easter. At the Easter Vigil Service, my heart becomes mesmerized as I sit in darkness gazing at the luminous Paschal candle. I am reminded that in every darkness, there is always Light, the Light I often fail to see because I often slumber in unawareness.
Easter Sunday is a joyful celebration of singing “Alleluia! Alleluia! The Lord is truly risen.” With bells ringing, organ and flute reverberating, and voices singing, I know I am truly on the Easter Road with Christ’s Light still by my side.
But during the Octave of Easter, I realize that Easter is not yet over. One of my favorite Gospels during the Octave is of the two disciples meeting the resurrected Jesus whom they do not recognize on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). They shared with the “stranger” all the things that had happened to Jesus the Nazarene and how he had been handed over to a sentence of death and crucifixion. They also shared that some of the women in their group were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find Jesus’ body and that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Jesus listens to them very attentively and then begins to speak: “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-28).” The disciples listened attentively and did not argue with him. They invited Jesus into their house for hospitality. But Jesus became the host as he broke bread and shared it with them. At that moment, their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. It is then that they realized their hearts were burning within them as they had walked the road with Jesus. They then returned to Jerusalem to proclaim their holy experience.
Henri Nouwen, in his book With Burning Hearts, A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life (Orbis Books, 1994) offers the following insight on this Gospel:
“Everything has changed. The losses are no longer felt as debilitating; home no longer is an empty place. The two travelers who started their journey with downcast faces now look at each other with eyes full of new light. The stranger, who had become friend, has given them his spirit, the divine spirit of joy, peace, courage, hope, and love. There is no doubt in their minds. He is alive! Not as alive as before, not as the fascinating preacher and healer from Nazareth, but alive as a new breath within them…A new heart and a new spirit has been given to them.” (pg.100)
The Easter season calls us to new life. Our Chaplain, Father John, ended his Easter Sunday homily with the following mantra: “Let your every morning be an Easter morning!” So on the road again I go, open to Jesus’ presence and carrying on his legacy of love each step of the way!
By Sister Priscilla Cohen, OSB