Easter Joy as Missionary Disciples
by Stephen F. Scott
U. S. Catholic Mission Association
Each year I look forward to the evening Mass on Easter Sunday because the Gospel we hear tells us about that first Easter evening when two of Jesus’ disciples travel toward Emmaus full of confusion, rejection, and sadness, but return to Jerusalem with fire in their hearts following their encounter with the risen Jesus. Here is the reading from the Gospel of Luke:
This passage, telling of Jesus’ encounter with his disciples on the road, has always been a favorite passage of mine and always resonates inside me when I listen to it. It highlights how we encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, in our celebration of the Mass, and how he is always with us, even when we do not recognize him. However, it is a passage that gives each of us the chance to pause to reflect and ask ourselves: how do I encounter the risen Christ in my life?
It can be all too easy to get lost in our daily life (work, chores, social engagements, worrying about the things that burden us), that we forget to see our encounters the living Christ in our lives. Sometimes it feels that we only give God an hour of our time during the week when we are at Mass, while we see those who give their entire lives to encountering the Lord and being his witnesses to the world. Is there a way for us to keep our hearts open to that encounter with Christ even when we are troubled or burdened? This is a question and a challenge all of us as individuals and as a church have dealt with, and for each of us the answer is different. Pope Francis reminds us that each person who has been baptized has had an encounter with Jesus and as a result we are called to live as missionary disciples. We are called to be living witnesses of the God who loves us so much. In many ways, the Emmaus story is one that shows us how Jesus is with us on our journey calling each of us to be his disciple and witness to the world around us.
As a short-term missioner, this biblical passage has taken on a greater meaning for me since I returned from my first mission trip to Bolivia with Franciscan Mission Service. Like the disciples who left Jerusalem and headed toward Emmaus, my mission trip to Bolivia was an encounter with the Lord through the people and missioners I met. It awoke in me a realization of how I let my daily life overtake my relationship and encounters with the Lord. By sharing in their stories, examples, and actions, I found the living Jesus revealed to my heart and, just like those disciples; I left my Emmaus Journey with a heart burning to share my experience of the living Christ with others. This Mission Congress will be a chance for each of us to encounter the living Jesus as we reflect on our relationship with the world around us in our call to be missionary disciples. Through our time together in prayer, discussion, reflection, and immersion into the challenges faced by the abandoned, immigrants, and poor in the city of Houston, this Mission Congress will be a time for us to see how each of us can return from our Emmaus Journey with our hearts burning and our yearning to be witnesses of Christ to the world we encounter.