« THEN THEIR EYES WERE OPENED… »
presenting the theme
for the pastoral years 2006-2009
Dear people of the diocese,
The text on the disciples going to Emmaüs has always been very inspiring for the ensuing Christian generations. Saddened by the events surrounding Jesus’ passion which they had watched, those two disciples were convinced that the hope they had placed in him as a prophet was altogether dead. Jesus had raised great hopes for them as Jews who were disillusioned by the difficult life conditions in their country. And the terrible events of the weekend which they had just experienced proved that all hope was gone for good.
Those disciples resemble us in many ways. We live in a world that very often gives us the impression that faith in God is no longer there. Media reporters have taken control over what or how we should think. Everyone has a personal opinion or theory which they try to impose. The key words today are consumerism and entertainment. Life is so short, why not enjoy ? And since we don’t know what the future will be like, let us enjoy the present moment ! Humorists, sports and television stars are very popular, and many among them receive scandalous pay in this world where poverty is so widespread.
However, can life be limited to those bad news? «What are you talking about to each other, as you walk along? What makes you so sad?», Jesus asks the two disciples on their way to Emmaüs. What do Christians talk about together today? Do they give an image of sad or happy persons?
The late Paul Tremblay wrote some time ago that the story of Emmaüs is «constructed so as to tell us that we can react when we experience deception and disillusionment, when we feel that everything is a failure». Let us look closely at the disciples in that story. On the outset, the path they follow leads nowhere. Jesus comes and walks along at their side. He listens while they talk about their despair. He challenges them…explains things…and shares the bread with them. «Then their eyes were opened». Jesus revives their hope along the way. And having recognized him, they want to tell their friends right away about all they have learned, that is : He is alive, he is with us. He is here forever.
On the roads of today’s Church, we meet many disappointed people. But we also come across persons who recognize Jesus, who walk along with Him, celebrate in memory of Him, affirm that he is alive. This will be the theme we want to take for the coming three pastoral years as we continue to build the Church of God here in the Gaspésie and Magdalen Islands.
For the pastoral year 2006-2007, we shall take time to grasp how important it is to realize that «We walk along with Him.» The theme of the way is one of the most profound images of any spiritual growth. It is referred to by all religions through the experience the pilgrimage. Pilgrims go to the Holy Land, to the tombs of Peter and Paul in Rome, to St James’ tomb in Compostela, Spain, to Lourdes. Here in our country, many go on pilgrimage to Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, to Listuguj, Carleton, Pointe-Navarre! The Moslems go on piligrimage to La Mecque and the Hindus on pilgrimage to bathe in the sacred river the Gange.
We can walk to reflect on what gives meaning to our life. We can also ponder over God’s presence in us and like the disciples going to Emmaüs, to better understand what God is trying to teach us. The most important thing on a pilgrimage is not the distance covered, but the inner journey that brings one to discover obstacles that make our lives so heavy : too much luggage in my personal life, natural limitations due to my situation, my health condition, my commitments, the need to allow myself some regular rest and restore my energy, the presence of companions who journey along with us.
The year 2007-2008 will focus on Jesus’ declaration : «I am with you until the end of times». We shall discover many ways in which Jesus makes that promise come true : through sharing on God’s Word, gathering as disciples that make us brothers and sisters, caring for the needy members of our community… But especially through the most precious type of presence which the Emmaüs disciples recognized that day : «When they were seated at the table with him, he took the bread, and said the blessing; then he broke the bread and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened.» Since that moment, on the eighth day like the early disciples, Christians continue to make his presence real when they celebrate «In memory of Him».
The year 2008-2009 will follow immediately the international Eucharistic Congress that will take place in Quebec. After celebrating Christ’s presence as «The Eucharist, gift of God for the life of the world», we shall focus on the call to give a new impetus to our faith with the affirmation : «We bear witness that He is alive!». Our act of faith shows that we, disciples in the XXIst century, also recognize him and are filled with hope in Him. Such belief in his presence urges us to make ourselves closer to our brothers and sisters, those who are well as those who suffer, so as to share that Good News with them : Life is worth living because God is our Father and he has brought Jesus our brother back to life, and He will always remain among us. He is the mainspring of our joy!
Dear brothers and sisters in the faith, let us keep on building in our midst the Church of Jesus Christ through the many communities of witnesses who reflect the presence of the Risen Jesus, He the source of our hope and joy. Like the disciples who came before us, let us share to the world the richness of God’s love that fills our life. And the Holy Spirit who has sent us will inspire us with appropriate speech and action.
† Jean Gagnon
Bishop of Gaspé
September 1st, 2006
 Tremblay, Paul, Par-delà l’automne, Anne Sigier, 2005, p. 99.