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Today’s Gospel describes two of Jesus disciples who were walking away from Jesus and His church community in Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were confused, disappointed, and fear-filled. They had lost their hopes and expectations after the death of their Master, Jesus Christ. On their journey, they were arguing and debating with each other. Jesus Himself approached and walked with them but they did not recognize Him; but Jesus did not abandon them and slowly the presence of Jesus made them open their eyes and hearts to recognizing Jesus. After they stopped their argument, they paid attention to Jesus’ words that helped restore their faith and hope and quell their fears.

At present, nations around the globe are facing challenging and unsettling times as all people deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe we have an opportunity to experience an Emmaus type journey during this difficult time. The message of Emmaus is that Jesus is walking with us on our journey especially in the midst of our fears, doubts, and grief. Even as we face the loss of our hopes our unknown future due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jesus is walking with us and — with patience — we shall see Jesus’ presence in the new life, towards which He leads us. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we must recognize Jesus in the midst of our present COVID-19 crisis.

“Footprints in the Sand” is a poem that most of you are probably familiar with. I often reflect and meditate on this beautiful poem and at different times have shared it with people. When I read this recently, I found it very powerful and meaningful, especially, during this time of crisis. I would like to share it with you now for your own reflection.

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to him and the other belongs to the LORD. When the last scene of his flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest time of his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it. “Lord you said that once I decided to follow you, you would walk with me all the way. However, I have noticed that during the most troublesome time in my life there is only one set of a footprint. I don’t understand why when I need you most you would leave me.” The LORD replied, “My precious, precious child, I Love you and I would never leave you! During your time of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

I love this powerful and meaningful poem, and I want very much to believe it is true. Especially, during this challenging time that has been hard on us all. Sometimes I feel completely alone and I am feeling lonely, too. I am missing my many, many loving and caring friends from the hospital chapel and different parishes around the city where I celebrate Holy Mass and also my family and several other friends. It can be easy to doubt and question, “Where is God” when I feel so alone with my fears and anxieties. Sometimes I feel that I am not capable of pulling myself through these trials and tribulations on my own, so I know that God must be there, carrying me through- even when I am too confused to notice Him. I truly believe that God is with me all the time! But in my own human weakness, sometimes I can feel Him, and sometimes I cannot. It is then that I must remind myself that God is Constant and True!

In the Gospel, we notice that at the end of their journey, the disciples show hospitality to the stranger and invited him to “Stay with us.” Jesus accepted their hospitality and invitation and by responding to the goodness that was in them, by accepting their offer of supper and shelter for the night, Jesus built upon what good they had and it brought them back to faith. When they listened to Jesus and participated in the breaking of the bread, they opened their eyes and it was then that they recognized Jesus and realized when they felt that their “hearts were burning within” as they listened to Him on the road.

In our lives, we all experience the same kind of Emmaus journey when we feel the disappointments, failures, rejections, loneliness, anxiety, fears, and darkness. It is then that we should engage in conversation and communication with each other as the disciples did with a stranger on their journey. Even in our own dark moments of our unbelief, we can invite Jesus to “Stay with us” and have a meal with us, like the disciples did. Let us find time to have meals with our close friends and family members and this will help us to bring real happiness and peace of mind. Also, we can help those who are having difficulties with their faith and who are struggling with darkness in their lives, by reaching out with our helping hands, by listening to their stories, and understanding and respecting them as they are. Let us walk with them, to praise their goodness and warm their hearts, and gently lead them in the right direction.

Let us experience the Eucharistic Christ, who can light the fire within us! Let us remember the words that St. Mother Teresa spoke about life’s journey: “Life is an opportunity, let us benefit from it. Life is beautiful, let us admires it. Life is a dream, let us realize it. Life is a challenge, let us meet it. Life is sorrowful, let us overcome it. Life is a song, let us sing it. Life is a struggle, let us accept it. Life is too precious, let us not destroy it. Life is a battle, let us fight for it!”