By Fr. Tom Hurley
Sunday, April 30, 2017
For the past year I have become so much more mindful of the gift of mobility and literally the ability to walk. Watching my parents navigate with walkers, and not without tremendous difficulty, has been nothing short of stark and sobering.Though despite the challenges of health and the aging process, I am grateful for fond memories.
When we were younger, one of the activities I so enjoyed was walking around the neighborhood and the local park with my dad. With a dog on the leash and bags in hand, we would set out on our journey, and I remember feeling both pride and comfort as I walked up and down the various city streets within our parish listening to my father’s wisdom and, often times, the whistling of show tunes or Irish songs.
Perhaps the greatest walk with my dad that I will treasure is the one we took on Saturday morning, May 22, 1993. Away from our familiar routes and finding ourselves in downtown Chicago, I found myself walking with my dad on the morning of my ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood. After finishing morning prayer and a breakfast with the late great Cardinal Bernardin at the former Quigley Seminary chapel at Rush & Pearson, my dad asked if we could walk together over to the Cathedral for the beginning of the ceremony. (My mom took the shuttle!) Though it’s only a few city blocks away, our walk from Quigley to Holy Name was perhaps one of the most grace-filled moments I can remember. Though my dad has never been a very talkative person, I knew that spending these last few moments prior to my ordination was something special that he wanted to claim for himself. Somewhere between Rush and State streets, I remember him asking me, “Are you okay?” To which I responded with a few tears attached, “I’m kind of scared.” To which my dad responded, “You’ll be alright. I’m very proud of you.”
A day later, on Sunday, May 23, 1993, I celebrated my first mass as a priest and the gospel I proclaimed was the one we hear today from Luke, the powerful and delightful text of those first disciples on the way to Emmaus. This is perhaps one of my favorite passages in all of Sacred Scripture. Filled with wonderful symbolism and an intriguing message, Luke tells us about some of those first disciples who find themselves walking together on a road, going from Jerusalem to Emmaus. We’re told it’s about 7 miles, but to this very day scholars still aren’t quite sure where Emmaus is actually located. There is no Emmaus on the map of the Holy Land today. Scholars like Ronald Rolheiser say that Emmaus may have been a village that existed during Jesus’ time but it was equivalent to a “spa” town or like Las Vegas! (His words, not mine!) The friends of Jesus were scared, frustrated, and uncertain of what the future would hold, so where do they find themselves but running away from it all to the spa town of Emmaus.
In this sacred walk, they discover in the midst of their confusion and fear, their faithful friend is on the road with them, accompanying them through their confusion and bringing them to a sense of peace. “Were not our hearts burning within as he walked with us on the road and opened the scriptures for us?” You see, I think the beauty of this remarkable Easter text is a great reminder that the life of discipleship is how we walk with one another on the road of life. Jesus led them not only to a moment of “turning around” and going back to Jerusalem, but he accompanied them and opened up their minds to the Scripture and to the power of what can happen when we gather together at the Table. Our eyes might actually open to a deeper Mystery of Holy Love and to the One who says to us: you’ll be alright. To all who walk with us on the road (literally and symbolically) and through their prayer and goodness lead us into the deeper mysteries of Easter faith, today is a great day to say Thanks. I am so deeply grateful for the ways all of you at Old St. Pat’s do that for me.
Happy Easter to all!
Fr. Tom Hurley