It would seem that our lives as monks, as followers of the Lamb, involve a continuous repetition of that trek to Emmaus. Disappointed beyond measure, our best hopes dashed, we very often plod glumly along. So self-absorbed, we haven’t a clue that Christ Jesus is with us. But he comes nearer, notices our despondency and inquires, “What are you going over in your heads? What’s the matter?” We are astonished by his seeming cluelessness. Doesn’t Jesus see, doesn’t he get? Everything’s falling apart. Our best hopes for success, accomplishment and the easy way out are all over. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Once again he comes after us, longing to unburden us with the blessed truth of new life that he is and that he bears. And he says to us most definitively, most kindly, “Oh how foolish you are; how slow to understand." The Messiah has been mocked and spat upon and crucified; of course. The Lamb has been slain. So why should it different for us who have promised to follow him? It’s supposed to be hard. The falls are part of the dance. The mess is our blessed opportunity to trust in the Father, who will not abandon us to everlasting death and sadness. The falling-apart gives him entrée, if we dare to depend on him and on one another.
Every commitment to love inevitably entails a willingness to suffer. It is just such a commitment that Jesus asks of each of us who follow him. “Come after me,” he says. And he does not solace his disciples, any of us, with empty promises but invites us to be true to our identity. We belong to him. And as Paul reminded us this morning, we have clothed ourselves with him through baptism. He is as close to us as the shirt on our backs, truly even closer, within, around, above us, ever with us. We are his. If we suffer and die with him, we shall also live with him. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are the splendid blueprint for our own lives as his followers. Oh how slow we are to understand.
Photograph of the abbatiale by Brother Brian. Words inspired by today's homily by Father Aquinas.