Jesus is present with hope to our sufferings.
Did we not feel our hearts on fire...? Luke 24:13-35 NEB
Common to all journeys are the anticipations and expectations of the new starts as well as the frustrations and impatience at the stops. There are surprises that exhilarate and disappoint. And there are journey ends that are really the beginnings of fresh, new journeys. Most despairing to us is the journey that ends in heartbreaking loss, where the past seems to have been waste, and the future hopeless. Always, God joins us in these hard and painful milestones, willing to open our eyes to his constant presence in our past and revealing the hope of our future.
We see a common journey on the road to Emmaus, as two men discuss their personal losses and grief at the crucifixion of Jesus. He had been buried but the tomb was found empty. For them, the road to Emmaus was one of heartbreaking perplexity. How could Jesus, the man they followed, die so tragically leaving those who followed him scattered and in confused despair?
When a stranger joins them on their retreat from Jerusalem, they are taken aback that he knows nothing of the terrible events of the preceding days. The stranger invites them to talk about their difficulties and listens patiently as they pour out their own gloom at the loss of powerful prophet, Jesus; at their shattered expectations of being liberated from Rome; at their own religious institution’s betrayal by handing Jesus over to be crucified by their Roman oppressors. They also describe confusing messages about angels at an empty tomb proclaiming that Jesus is alive. Their hopes, their dreams, their world had collapsed in three agonizing days.
For the remainder of the journey, the stranger gives them a scriptural history lesson of the importance of the sacrificial suffering of the Messiah and the glory to come out of the losses they were experiencing. Arriving at Emmaus, in the blessing of a dinner meal – a common event – “their eyes were opened” and they recognized Jesus, stranger no longer. They exclaimed, “Did we not feel our hearts on fire as he talked with on the road and explained the scriptures to us?” They then immediately returned to the grieving community in Jerusalem with the hope that they had just been with Jesus.
God is always present to us, and we are the ones who are dull to see his presence and slow to believe the good he is working for us. We need to hear our own past explained in the light of the scriptural season we are in. We need our eyes opened to the One who joins us our own road to Emmaus. We need again to “feel our hearts on fire.”
Jesus, make me aware of your constant presence, of your patient assurances, of my heart on fire for you again.