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Pounding and burning hearts on the road to Emmaus

April 4, 2008
tr-emmausengland.jpgPounding hearts, wounded hearts and burning hearts… the image of the human heart permeates the Scripture readings for this third Sunday of Easter. There is no better story to illustrate this than Luke’s account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus on Resurrection evening [24:13-35]. Today’s readings provide us with a good opportunity to reflect on our Easter faith, and to realize once again that believing is not a matter of the mind, but a matter of the heart. It will only be through our pounding hearts and burning hearts that we will come to believe. What we “believe” is what we “give our heart to”. The Emmaus story teaches us that the Resurrection is not a head trip, but a heart trip.
When we meet the disciples on the road to Emmaus, it is evening, and the glow of that first Easter day has begun to fade. Resurrection at this point is nothing more than a rumor or a tale. Buried beneath their verbal exchange lies a deep yearning and holy hunger. Intimately intertwined with their skepticism is their hope, and their need for God to be alive, vibrant and present. But the baggage of their doubt impedes the fervor of their faith. And so they fail to recognize Jesus.
tr-emmaus-icon.jpgWithout being aware of what they are really saying along the road, the two disciples profess many of the central elements of the creed of the Christian faith but they remain blind to the necessity of the Messianic suffering predicted in the Scriptures. The stranger on the road to Emmaus takes the skepticism and curiosity of the disciples and weaves them into the fabric of the Scripture. Jesus challenges them to reinterpret the events of the past days in light of the Scriptures and they share a meal together. After breaking the bread with them, he disappears and finally their eyes are opened. This meeting of the “tradition” with the “encounter” of Jesus in the flesh kindled a fire in the hearts of those who traveled with him. Finally in the intimacy of the breaking of the bread were their eyes opened and they recognized the Risen One in their midst.
Understanding the Resurrection implies a two-fold process of knowing the message of the Scriptures and experiencing the one about whom they all speak: Jesus the Lord, through the breaking and sharing of bread with the community of believers.
All along the road their eyes are prevented from seeing Jesus. Their eyes longed to see beyond the scales of sorrow and sadness and understand that it was truly the Lord. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus thirsted for the living water that only the Risen One could give. But they finally recognize him in sharing the Word and breaking the bread.
tr-emmaussmall.jpgEmmaus places some important questions before our community of faith: How is Jesus alive and present in our community? It may not always be conscious and clear, but in the human heart there is a deep nostalgia for God. Nostalgia and longing are matters of the human heart. Are our own hearts gradually on fire within us when the Scriptures are opened to us? And how often do we recognize the stranger as the living Christ in our midst? Let me conclude with a prayer for this week:
Stay With Us, Lord!
"Stay with us, Lord, for it is evening and the day is far spent." Just as the two disciples prayed on that evening in Emmaus, help me to be focused and centered on you, my Lord, my hope and my life. When doubt and despair fill my life, Stay with me, Lord. When sadness and emptiness tempt me to believe that you are absent, fill me with your consoling presence. When selfishness prevents me from reaching out to others, teach me your art of selflessness. Stay with me, Lord, and help me to remember that the royal road of the Cross is the only way for me and for the Church. Stay with me, Lord, along the journey, and help me to discover you each day in the breaking of the Word and the Bread. Stay with us, Lord, as we journey to the New Jerusalem where you are light, peace, and endless home. AMEN.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.,
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
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View Fr. Rosica’s Easter Reflections online by clicking HERE.