Do we miss the cues for encountering the living Christ in our lives? In Luke 24:13-35, we learn of two disciples who nearly did.
That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
This is an interesting passage from Luke, one sometimes referenced at business conferences for those on a passage of faith when we are confronted with a reality and we fail to see all the signs and then that reality suddenly dawns on us. If we had just paid attention to the signs earlier, goes the thinking. “Oh, how foolish you are!”
This, of course, involved two disciples – we only know one, named Cleopas – away from the others. They have heard what happened but haven’t seen Jesus return from the dead themselves. It is still a fantastic story to them. And then along comes this stranger, whom they do not initially recognize. It isn’t until the stranger blesses the bread, breaks it, and gives it to them as Jesus did at the Last Supper that Jesus’ presence among them reveals itself. “Were not our hearts burning within us,” they recall of their encounter. Weren’t the signs there?
We live in a time of deep denial on many things. The Holocaust, climate change, even the physical existence of Jesus in his own time. It’s natural to doubt, to be skeptical, but now is an especially troubling time when facts are denied and evidence is discounted. The political debates aside, the spiritual consequences can be dire.
You either believe in Jesus the Christ or you don’t. If you don’t believe in Him, you may never, although there are those who eventually come to. If you do believe in Him, you may occasionally have doubts about your own faith. That happens, too. But don’t let these days of denial wrap a blindfold around your eyes. Look deeply into your heart and see if Jesus hasn’t found a place there; see if He hasn’t stirred your soul. If in prayer to Him or contemplating Him or reading or hearing His words hasn’t resonated deeply somewhere within you. Were not your hearts burning within you?
And in your life journey, are there not times when you see Jesus in others? In the kindness of a caregiver. In the struggle of the homeless. In the weeping of the widow. In the aching of the hungry. Has not the compassion of Jesus not welled up in you? Were you hearts not burning within you? How about when you received His body and blood in the Holy Eucharist, if you are a member of a faith that provides that sacrament?
If we miss those cues to see Jesus personally, then are we not also missing the opportunity to share His love with others, as He has called on us to do? Are you, too, on a journey to Emmaus?
Jesus is everywhere around us, offering Himself in love, just as he was on that road to Emmaus. If we are blind to it, oh, how foolish we are!