Readings for Mass: I: Acts 2:14,22-33; Responsorial: Psalm 16; II: I Peter1:17-21; Gospel: Luke 24:13-35
Skellig Michael is a remote, rather small rock of an island off of County Kerry on the west coast of Ireland. Facing the Atlantic and Irish sea it is battered by storms, often shrouded in fog and flogged by fierce winds. Now it is visited only by tourists, weather permitting and scholars of Celtic Christianity. Although a long popular home for sea birds it has only known human habitation within extreme limitations. The largest period of human presence on the island was from the 6th to perhaps the 12 century but only by a small group of men gathered in a monastic community of intense faith, courage and commitment to seek God’s Presence and will in their lives. It provides people today encountering this time of “isolation” with an extreme contrast to examine. Skellig Michael is known for the cold stone huts, fierce weather and especially the very steep and dangerous steps and paths that made for their daily pathway. Those perilous steps provide us today a lesson on what it is to walk with our Risen Lord on the path of life.
“You will show me the path of life, abounding joy in your Presence, the delights at your right hand forever“, so concludes our Psalm for this Sunday. This Psalm of David proclaims a deep faith and peace of a man who sought to follow and walk in God’s path of life. But this life was often entangled with circumstances of the world and human soul of great peril and uncertainty.
In our first reading the Apostle Peter, preaching to the crowd speaks of this King David and how he confessed, he proclaimed: “I saw the Lord ever before me….You have made known to me the paths of life..”. In remembering the life David lived we indeed recall he was the most faithful king of Israel. His courage was incomparable. But it is essential to remember that his life was also deeply conflicted. David knew what it was to hide in isolated caves in the wilderness as Saul sought to kill him (and this after God had anointed David King). The shepherd king knew well the perilous steps of temptation and subsequent sin in his failings with Bathsheba and the efforts to hide from those consequences. Yet even with these great dangers and failings David always returned his heart and life to follow the steps God, the Great Shepherd, had for him. David knew that only with God would the path of life be found. Only with God’s Presence and will was their the places of peace and joy. David also learned, early on, that this was truly a journey, a pilgrimage. The path he knew as a young boy was not what, where he was to be as a young renegade king or as a warrior monarch fighting for his nation and his God. David spoke of knowing the paths of life, realizing and confessing that he could not get settled into thinking or believing..”this is right..this is the way it is supposed to be.” David would give to the early followers of Jesus, and to us today, not a detailed map of faith and liturgy, of practices and places. We would be given, instead, a light by which the soul would seek and learn to follow the ways of God, the way of the Cross.
It is in our Gospel for this 3rd Sunday of Easter we read of the attempted journey to Emmaus of the two disciples. They had followed Jesus. They had encountered the horrors of His passion and death. And now they had heard He was risen from the dead. To say their steps were shrouded in the bitter fogs of confusion and fear would be an understatement. So they were doing the only sensible thing. They were going home. It was as they walked the road to Emmaus this guy meets them and starts walking with them. They were incredulous at how uninformed he seemed to be as he presented mystery about all that had been happening in the holy city. and then presented powerful insights of Scripture and faith In classic mid-eastern courtesy they invite him into their home to eat and rest the night. And it was as He broke the bread their eyes were opened. They knew Jesus was with them and had been walking with them even as they wrestled with their doubts and fears. They left their home, that evening, returning to Jerusalem and the apostles and shared their witness, their experience of the Risen Christ. They experienced the path of life.
Skelling Michael, a rocky tiny island in the stormy seas off of Ireland gives us the visual realization of what the path of life is as we follow Jesus. While we are not in a severe monastic community with rocky paths of steep and scary steps we are on paths often shrouded with uncertainty, buffeted by winds and circumstances that seem to never end. And we are on a journey of faith, with our Risen Christ that leads to life eternal. Whether we think of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, or King David, or the island-cloistered monks of Skellig Michael or our own journeys we are all called by the Shepherd of our Souls and accompanied by Him who promises His Presence with us always.