(ZENIT News / Quebec, Canada, 28.07.2022).- On Thursday morning, July 28, the Holy Father left the Archbishopric of Quebec, where he was staying in that city, and went to the National Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.
On his arrival at the Shrine, he was driven in the popemobile among the faithful. Then at 10:00 am he presided over the Eucharistic Celebration of Reconciliation. After the proclamation of the Gospel about the disciples of Emmaus, the Pontiff delivered his homily.
Here is the text of the homily in English, with highlights in bold added by ZENIT.
* * *
The journey of the disciples of Emmaus, at the end of Saint Luke’s Gospel, is an image of our personal journey and the journey of the Church. In the course of life –and of the life of faith–, while we carry forward the dreams, plans, wishes and hopes that live in our heart, we are also faced with our frailties and weaknesses; we experience defeats and disappointments, and we are often blocked by a feeling of failure that paralyzes us. But the Gospel proclaims to us that, precisely in that moment, we are not alone, the Lord comes to meet us, is on our side, follows our same path with the discretion of a friendly passer-by who wants to open our eyes and make our heart burn. Thus, when disappointments leave space for an encounter with the Lord, life is born again to hope and we can reconcile with one another, with ourselves, with brothers and with God.
Hence let us follow the itinerary of this journey, which we can entitle: from failure to hope.
1)The Feeling of Failure
In the first place is the feeling of failure, which nests in the heart of these two disciples after Jesus’ death. They had followed a dream with enthusiasm. They had placed all their hopes and desires on Jesus. Now, after the scandalous death on the cross, they turn their back on Jerusalem to return home to their previous life. Theirs is a journey of return, as if wishing to forget that experience which has filled their hearts with bitterness, that Messiah condemned to death as a criminal on the cross. They returned home downcast with a sad countenance” (Luke 24:17). The expectation they had created for themselves came to nothing, the hopes in which they believed collapsed, the dreams they hoped to realize gave way to disappointment and bitterness.
This experience, which also affects our life and likewise the spiritual journey, is lived on all occasions in which we are obliged to restructure our expectations and learn to live with the ambiguity of reality, with the shadows of life and with our weaknesses. It is something that happens to us every time our ideals face the disappointments of life and our plans fall into oblivion because of our frailties. ; when we start good projects but do not have the capacity to carry them out (cf. Romans 7:18); when in the activities that occupy us or in our relations we experience –before or after– a defeat, an error, a setback, a fall. This happens while we see what we believed in, or what we committed ourselves to, collapse, and also when we feel the weight of our sin and the feeling of guilt.
And this is what happened to Adam and Eve, as we heard in the First Reading. Their sin not only distanced them from God but it distanced them from each other. They did nothing other than accuse one another. And we see it also in the disciples of Emmaus, whose discomfort in seeing Jesus’ plan collapse only left them room for a sterile discussion. The same can be verified in the life of the Church: that community of the Lord’s disciples, which the two disciples of Emmaus represent. Despite being the community of the Risen One, we can find her wandering lost and disillusioned in face of the scandal of the evil and violence of Calvary. No option remains but to take in hand the feeling of failure and to wonder: What has happened? Why has it happened? How could it have happened?
Brothers and sisters, they are questions that each one of us asks him/herself and they are also burning questions that resound in the heart of the Church pilgrimaging in Canada, in the arduous journey of healing and reconciliation it has undertaken. We also, in face of the scandal of evil and of the Body of Christ wounded in the flesh of our Indian brothers, have immersed ourselves in bitterness and feel the weight of the fall. Permit me to unite myself spiritually with the multitude of pilgrims that climb the “Scala Santa,” which recalls Jesus going up to Pilate’s praetorium, and to accompany you as Church in these questions born in a heart full of pain: Why did all this happen? How could something like this happen in the community of Jesus’ followers?
An Attitude of Flight
On this point, we must be aware of the temptation to flee, which is present in the two disciples of the Gospel. To flee, to retrace one’s steps, to escape from the place where the events occurred, to try to have them disappear, to look for a “calm place” like Emmaus in order to forget them. There is nothing worse, in face of life’s setbacks, than to flee so as not to face them. It is a temptation of the enemy, who threatens our spiritual journey and the Church’s journey; he wants to make us believe that the defeat is definitive; he wants to paralyze us with bitterness and sadness, to convince us that there is nothing to do and, therefore, it is not worthwhile to find a way to begin again.
However, the Gospel reveals to us that, precisely in situations of disappointment and pain, exactly when we experience astonished the violence of evil and the shame of the offense, when the river of our life dries up because of sin and failure, when denuded of all it seems we no longer have anything, in fact it is then when the Lord comes to meet us and walks with us.
In the journey of Emmaus, He approaches with discretion to accompany and share with those saddened disciples their resigned steps. And, what does He do? He does not offer generic words of encouragement or circumstance, or easy consolations, but, unveiling in the Sacred Scriptures the mystery of His Death and Resurrection, He illumines the story and the events they have lived. Thus He opens their eyes to see things with a new look. We who share the Eucharist in this Basilica can also reread many events of history. In this very place there were already three churches, but there were also people who did not back down in face of difficulties, and were able to dream again despite their errors and those of others. Thus, when one hundred years ago a fire devastated the Shrine, they were not defeated, and built this church with courage and creativity. And all those that share the Eucharist from the nearby Plains of Abraham, can also perceive the courage of those that did not let themselves be hijacked by the hatred of war, of destruction and pain, but were able to plan again a city and a country.
2)Hope in Life
Finally, Jesus breaks the bread before the disciples of Emmaus, opening their eyes and showing them once again how the God of love offers His life for His friends. Thus, He helps them to take up again the journey with joy, to begin again, to pass from failure to hope. Brothers and sisters, the Lord wants to do the same also with each one of us and with His Church. How can our eyes open again? How can our heart be inflamed again for the Gospel? What must we do while we are afflicted by different spiritual and material trials, while seeking the way to a more just and fraternal society, while desiring to recover from our disappointments and exhaustions, while waiting to be healed from the wounds of the past and being reconciled with God and with one another?
There is a way, only one way, Jesus’ way, that way which is Jesus Himself (cf. John 14:6). Let us believe that Jesus joins our path and let Him reach us; let His Word interpret the story we live as individuals and as community, and indicate to us the way to be healed and to be reconciled with one another. Let us break with faith the Eucharistic Bread, because around the table we can rediscover ourselves beloved children of the Father, all called to be brothers. On breaking the Bread, Jesus confirms the testimony of the women, to whom the disciples did not give credit, that He has resurrected! In this Basilica, where we remember the Virgin Mary’s mother, and in which the crypt is also found that is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, we must highlight the role that God willed to give women in His plan of Salvation. Saint Anne, the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the women on Easter morning point out to us a new path of reconciliation, the maternal tenderness of so many women can accompany us –as Church– to newly fruitful times, where we leave behind so much sterility and so much death, and put Jesus, the Risen Crucified One, at the center.
In fact, we cannot put ourselves and our frustrations in the center of our questions, of the endeavours we bear within, of pastoral life itself; we must put Him, the Lord Jesus. Let us put His Word at the heart of everything, Word that illumines events and restores our eyes to see the effective presence of the love of God and the possibility of the good, even in situations that are seemingly lost.
Likewise, let us put the Bread of the Eucharist, which Jesus still breaks for us today to share His life with ours, to embrace our weaknesses, to support our tired steps and to heal our heart. And, reconciled with God, with others and with ourselves, we will also be able to be instruments of reconciliation and peace in the society in which we live.
Lord Jesus, our Way, our strength and consolation, we address You as the disciples of Emmaus: “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent” (Luke 24:29). Stay with us, Lord, when hope declines and the dark night of disappointment falls. Stay with us because with You, Jesus, our path takes a new direction and from the dead ends of mistrust the astonishment of joy is reborn. Stay with us, Lord, because with You the night of pain is changed into the radiant dawn of life. We say simply: stay with us, Lord, because if You walk with us failure opens to hope of a new life. Amen.
Translation from the Spanish original by Virginia M. Forrester