'Were not our hearts burning within us?' - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Photo by Dimitris Vetsikas via Pixabay

I have always loved the Road to Emmaus story that we hear in the Gospel of Luke (24:13-35). Let me tell you why.

“Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”

First, I find the two disciples in the story to be so relatable. As they journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus, they are filled with fear and feel lost and abandoned. Their eyes are downcast and they are unable to recognize the person that walks alongside them.

This story is described as one of the early resurrection appearances of Jesus. In our own lives, how many of us can relate to these disciples? That is, how many of us can relate to missing moments of resurrection or God’s presence in our own lives?

I know this is very easy for me to do. I can often sleepwalk, so to speak, through my day, focused on how I can be as productive and efficient as possible. I miss the beauty of the present moment more often than I would care to admit. It is also easy for me to be blind to the good that is happening in my daily life due to being discouraged or overwhelmed by the challenges present in my work.

This story is calling us to stay awake, to be present. It is just as unsettling for me as it was for the two disciples in the Gospel to realize that I can be very out of touch with God’s presence and movement in my life.

That said, what is it that you and I can do to stay awake, to stay present?

Christ in Emmaus by Michael Ancher, Ribe Kunstmusem, via Wikimedia Commons

The second thing I like about this Gospel is that it calls us to be reflective. Although it is critical to make time for individual prayer and contemplation a priority, I think a strong message of this story is that we all are called to community. These men recognized together what they had missed and that they needed to wake up!

As individuals, we need others to help us to stay present and remind us of what is important. We are all on our own individual journeys, but as we share with others – our stories, our doubts, and our fears – the presence of God and the working of the Spirit become evident. We become more conscious of beauty, goodness, and light. I think it is critical for us to have these moments of reflection because they can be transformative. They allow us to awaken to how we can be more aware of God’s love for us and more capable to embody that love for others.

“With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him…
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?’”

May we all work to find communities that challenge us to stay in the present moment during this Easter season—ones that help us to remember we must continue moving forward, even when we feel discouraged or overwhelmed. Community helps us to face uncertainty with grace and despair with hope. It sustains us and motivates us to keep our hearts burning for justice and equality in a world that is very broken and in need of great healing.

To close, I would like to share the final two stanzas of a poem, “Last Night As I Was Sleeping,” by Spanish poet Antonio Machado.  These beautiful words always remind me of this wonderful Gospel story:

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

A reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter, April 26, 2020, written by Becca Muder for the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Becca Muder
Becca Muder provides educational support, leadership development and accompaniment to children and women at Patronato Lidia Coggiola in the El Zaite community near San Salvador, El Salvador.