I have been reflecting a lot the last few weeks on this very familiar Gospel. One thing that keeps striking me is that they didn’t recognize Jesus. Neither did Mary of Magdala in John’s Gospel. Neither did the apostles in last weeks account and neither did Thomas. I cant help but keep asking myself; would I? I know what I would look for and I have an idea in my head what Jesus should act like; but is that really him? Often, we do try to keep Jesus in a safe box with well defined parameters so we keep control over him (or at least the illusion of control). The reality is that as hard as we try to “tame” Jesus; we can’t.
So what do we do? Like the two on the road to Emmaus, we open our hearts to hear him and become a disciple or as the dictionary says:”to be a learner”. Jesus is the one who will open our ears to the Scripture and to his presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. There is another element that can be over looked. Once our hearts begin to recognize him, we need to ask him into our lives. The two on the road asked him to remain with them in the inn. Being a disciple is to ask Jesus to remain in our hearts and our lives every single day. This is the fundamental meaning of prayer. It is not as much about asking for something; it is an invitation to God to come into our hearts and teach us how to live. Prayer is falling in love with God and opening our hearts to him.
Just like any relationship, we need to get to know each other. For God, this is easy: we are made in his likeness. We do not always know God, like the apostles. The best way is to learn how to pray with the Sacred Scripture and let God teach us who he is. We pray with the Scriptures when we take a passage and just ask God to teach us by it. It is always good to start with the Gospels and let Jesus teach us how to be his disciples and friends. This is takes a life time. Just like any student, we have to conquer our own stubbornness and resistance and open up our minds and hearts to God. There is no magic formula or “correct” way to pray; it takes a lifetime to let God love us in prayer.
As I look forward to who we can be after things open up, my prayer is that we grow in this way. If we allow God to be the foundation of our lives, then even when things like this happen again, we wont need to be afraid. We will know God is with us. We maybe walking on the road to Emmaus right now and being forced to find God in the Sacred Scriptures and asking Jesus to come into your hearts with a spiritual communion. My hope is that these days will lead us into a deeper appreciation of the gift of the Mass and the Eucharist. It is my prayer that by opening our hearts to Christ now, we will recognize him in the “breaking of the bread”. These are things that can lead us into service and mission, but our service and mission can lead us into them too. There is no “correct way”.
May this week be the week that we ask Jesus for the gift to recognize him in prayer, the Word, the Sacrament of the Eucharist and in our service. May our hearts burn within us with God’s love.