Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?
The story of the disciples traveling the road to Emmaus, discouraged and disheartened by the apparent loss of the Messiah to crucifixion, has always been one of my favorite Gospel passages. It was our reflection point at Christian Community on Sunday, and in my written comments I said I felt
"unfinished....I don't have any perfect insight or resolution to all the struggles of the week other than to keep moving forward, accepting whatever comes into my life, and hoping God will strengthen me. "
When I went to Mass yesterday morning, our associate pastor said that the key to spiritual growth is relationship--with Jesus Christ and with his heavenly Father. Somehow that simple statement struck me with unusual force. I realized that often my prayer life can be similar to approaching a dispensing machine, as I ask for graces or favors but don't spend time trying to develop a heart felt conversation with the One whom I am approaching.
This morning, The Word among Us took today's Gospel from John 6:30-35 and compared the Jews' romanticizing the time when God gave them manna in the desert and refusing to accept the Bread of Life standing in front of them to our own tendency to look back at God's past work in our lives instead of the challenges he is giving us today. "It's hard to be patient with such an incomplete and unfinished work, isn't it? We'd rather cross items off our list than return to them every day, with mixed results."
As one who has a long list and only crosses off a few of the items each day, I can testify to my desire to be finished--to become completely spiritually mature, never to judge anyone, always to listen attentively to others, and mostly not to have to walk the road to Emmaus as a widow. Yet Lent and its spiritual desert comes around faithfully every year and then we celebrate the astonishing news of the Resurrection. But for those of us traveling in sorrow to Emmaus, the news can come later than Easter. We don't see the angels at the empty tomb or the burial clothes wrapped up neatly. What we are given, though, is perhaps what we most need: a vision of Jesus at table with us, taking the bread, saying the blessing, breaking it and giving it to us, looking deeply into our eyes in a way that fills us with his presence even as he vanishes from sight. But that strengthens us to "set out at once" and return to Jerusalem.