Joseph von Führich’s 1837 painting of the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Robert Kinghorn: No one need walk alone on the road of despair

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  • April 22, 2019

Alleluia, alleluia give thanks to the risen Lord Alleluia, alleluia give praise to His name.

The music had barely faded from our Easter liturgy when I walked into the hospital room of a woman I had been asked to visit but had never met.

“Happy Easter. How are you today?” I asked.

The young woman looked at me with immense longing. A picture of her young sons lay beside her on the table.

“I’m dying, and there’s nothing they can do about it. I’ve just been told. What can I do? Where is God in all of this?”

At times like these all we can do is sit and listen to the pain. We cannot turn away to look in another direction. We cannot attempt to escape into pious dreams of some future heaven. The pain is too real and too imminent to escape.

We must face the mystery of the pain and find there the face of Jesus crucified and broken. Only then will we be able to kneel beside the one suffering and promise to walk with them on the difficult journey they are on.

This is what can bring hope in the darkness of illness, addiction and despair; that someone cares enough to listen to the voice of illness and say, “Hello in there. How are you? How are you coping?”

That Easter morning was a vivid reminder of the new hope that we celebrate at Easter, and yet which only occasionally seems to well up within us such that it can be seen, felt and tasted.

It is the hope of a couple of grief￾stricken disciples who walked with an unknown stranger on the road to Emmaus, only to discover that when the darkness of the night was shattered Christ revealed Himself as the stranger on the journey.

Many years ago, I sat with a young lady on the steps of her downtown squalid rooming house as she despairingly rambled through yet another monologue of self-pity and self-hatred. She was a long-time drug user who did not so much have a drug of choice, but a drug of the day. I had known her for a few years and her doorstep had become a regular “pew” in the Church on the Street where I had heard confessions and given blessings.

That evening she was keenly aware of her mortality and spoke of her powerlessness over the drugs that had taken over her life and had transformed it from social worker to client.

She had often spent Christmas and Easter with my family and, with Easter approaching, our con￾versation turned to the future and what hope she could see on the horizon.

“I don’t think I will be alive by Easter,” she said. “Not at the rate I am going. The drug use is taking its toll on me.”

All I could promise her at that moment is that my family and I would continue to be with her on this journey. We can’t walk her walk, but we can promise to be waiting on her horizon.

We all walk with crutches, but if I could give her hope that someone is there to support her on the journey then maybe she could come to believe that Jesus is also waiting for her, and He too would walk with her as support and hope along the way.

It is the hope we all long for, that someone is waiting for us, ready to embrace and receive us at every step and misstep on our personal road to Emmaus. Now, many years later, she has returned to her social work profession.

Where is God in all of this? The question is asked so often when tragedy strikes and we are left reeling, asked when life presents too many questions and too few answers.

Our simple response is one of presence and hope. A hope that none of us is alone and that within and beyond the presence of a friend is the presence of Christ risen and fully alive.

There is one thing of which I am fully convinced through my time with the Church on the Street, and it is that you and I are the hope for others when we bring the presence of Christ into the midst of their despair.

Despite our own sinfulness and frailty, we do this in Christ, through Christ and with Christ, as we trust in the power of the One who overcame death on the first Easter morning.

(Kinghorn is a deacon of the Archdiocese of Toronto: robert. kinghorn@ekinghorn.com)

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