When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:30-32
I first encountered Jesus at the age of 7. Not that he wasn’t there all the time, but I simply had not so clearly recognized him before. Sure, I knew my heavenly Father- marveling at his wondrous surprises each day and felt his guiding hand as I was at play. And yes, I experienced His profound love for me through the tender care of my family, but it truly was not until then that I began to understand the immensity of what that love entailed. A heart set ablaze by the love of Christ’s sacrifice for me and a unquenchable desire to seek him in all that I do.
” Do you really know the living Jesus—not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace; He is longing to give it. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person—not just the idea.” St. Teresa of Calcutta
Cooperation isn’t for cowards
Did I fully realize the lifelong commitment that I was undertaking? One that would not be easy, even arduous at times, and require both surrender and trust to the journey ahead? That would carry me from a small Southern Baptist pew to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome? While that might be the basis for a good made-for-tv movie, I can truly say my God is both the God of promise and surprise. Truth is, none of us have any idea what God has in store when we turn our lives over to him and choose to follow Christ. Yet, to accompany Christ is to align our will and our steps to his, to let go of the known to embrace the unknown gift ahead. We might be willing to settle, but the full screen cinematic blockbuster story is a much more convincing witness than anything we could have dreamt of.
Here, in this blessed state of bewilderment God awaits for us to ask for direction and here his presence and guidance becomes discernible. On beginning our walk to Emmaus we actually find it comforting to turn over the events of the day. In sharing these joys and sorrows we might feel lighter, comforted initially by the awareness that we are not alone. But in this journey with Christ, there is so much more!
If we left the story here, our hearts that burned would fizzle and the memory fade amidst our daily activities. Yet, we recognize the familiarity of his words and become accustomed to his stride longing to spend more time with him. This walk of fellowship ushers us to dine together, and in sharing our brokenness we finally partake in the full presentness of our friend and savior. This is the Pascal mystery- this is Eucharist.
As a protestant, my heart too burned in anticipation of the Lord’s Supper and yet was left without its fulfillment. Mere remembrances of Christ’s gift simply could not satisfy the deeper longing I experienced. Now as a Catholic, the Eucharist is that tangible real presence, the full response to that hunger of our hearts that cannot be contained. For, with the swing of the doors of the church we are given the graced responsibility anew to share the joy of the Gospel with hearts afire!
And may that fire never be extinguished!