Hearts on fire
On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, Jesus joined two of his disciples on an 11 kilometre walk to the village of Emmaus – except the disciples didn’t realise it was Jesus! During those 11 kilometres, Jesus broke open the scriptures – the prophecies, the law – passages which the disciples would have known so well and yet began to understand in a whole new light. Suddenly the old appeared to be new! And their eyes were opened and they recognised him… Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’ [Luke 24:31-32]
So it is with us. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “The things that are old, that we know so well: the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist – all these things have to come back to us and be discovered in their new beauty.”
A spiritual encounter with God, in whatever form we experience that encounter, is an intensely personal experience. It can be different for each of us. In the earlier stages of my spiritual journey I felt reluctant to share openly about my encounters and experiences with God. Sure, I could share something – but certainly not everything – because it was a personal experience, my own experience with God and not that of anyone else.
During that period of the journey, when I was holding back, I began to pray that the Holy Spirit would set my heart on fire with the love of God. We are told we should be careful what we ask for because we might just get it. And that’s what happened for me. God heard and answered my prayer and in a way that far exceeded my expectations! He didn’t just set my heart on fire, he fanned it to a roaring blaze – and my spiritual journey has become for me far more than a journey, it has become an adventure! And now too, because my heart is ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit, I do not hold back in my sharing – I open my heart and my soul.
There is something that touches me deep inside each time I hear, read or think about the road to Emmaus story. It is as if I am on the road with Jesus, that I truly was one of the two disciples whose eyes and hearts he opened and whose hearts burned within them as he unlocked the meanings of the Scriptures to them.
I am led to reflect on the many ways that I experience Jesus in my life. Sometimes the experience comes in unpredictable ways, like in a beautiful sunrise – gold in the morning sun – or in a magnificent sunset. On one occasion it was in the powerful gusts of wind that came, stayed briefly and went again as I was writing in my journal. Sometimes it comes during deep thoughts. I often experience Jesus during these early morning Quiet Times. I have experienced Jesus in other people… and I have experienced Jesus in times of trial, trouble and tragedy.
Whilst Jesus does come to me in countless different ways – everyone of them beautiful and every one of them real – the one predictable place and the one place my experience of Jesus is usually more intense is in the Eucharist.
“Some days I may ask myself: If the Lord can be encountered in so many places, why go to Church? This … story of Emmaus tells us why. To meet Jesus in the sacramental way and to have Him speak His words, and to break bread with Him, is to experience a special kind of regular, intense, predictable, recognisable presence that is different from any other kind. That’s why we go to Mass.” [The Little White Book]
In fact, every table of the Eucharist is Emmaus: every moment of hearing the Scriptures is the road to Emmaus. We are always on the road, as Jesus speaks his word and breaks the bread of his love.
The other lesson is that Jesus calls us to share, to witness to his presence, to spread the Good News of the Word of God.
How do you experience Jesus in your life? Reflect in your heart about experiencing Jesus in the Eucharist. How is it different from any other experience you have of Jesus? What will you do, from this time forward, to respond to his call, his challenge to you?
Lord Jesus, you are ever ready to teach me, to guide me, to talk with me. May I always be alert Lord to your whisperings, open to your Word and to your abundant, unending love.