A recent Sunday Gospel reading from the book of Luke is one of my husband’s favourites: “Were not our hearts burning within us?”
We like to read the day’s Mass readings after we do our Morning Offering, and this same Gospel was used a couple of weeks ago. Before Scott started, he smiled and said, “Oh, this is one of my favourites!”
When he started, I immediately recognized the Scripture but couldn’t quite figure out what made it so important to him. But when he finished, he looked at the kids and asked, “So, when did they finally recognize him?”
I find it funny how the Lord is walking with these two confused disciples, and when they explain their confusion, he just lets loose, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!”
It’s something I noticed this past Lent, Jesus’ exasperation with the unbelievers and the hypocrites. I can just see him shaking his head and sighing before letting out another, “You fools!”
Jesus explains the prophecies of Scripture and shows them how this “mighty prophet” they speak of had to suffer, had to die. They listen and, as he speaks, their very hearts start to burn. Something in this stranger’s words is stirring the fire and giving them hope.
An interesting thing in this account is that Jesus was there waiting for them. He wasn’t just strolling around in his resurrected body, seeing who might come along. Our Lord was there, at that spot, because two of his sheep were astray. They were lost and confused and downtrodden. He sought them out and waited for them. And as frustrated as he is when he calls them fools for not understanding the Scriptures, the very reason he is there is to reassure them and give them the peace he knows they need.
Something I’ve learned from homeschooling our six kids is that every child has their own way of understanding. I refer to it as their “language.” I could have taught the same arithmetic concept to my first three sons with no problem whatsoever, but number four comes along and it’s like I’m speaking Greek.
At first, I’m a bit stunned this child isn’t getting it. “Like, didn’t you hear what I just said? I even drew out an example!”
Then that stunned-ness turns into a bit of frustration. I’m thinking to myself, “Well, this worked perfectly fine with the other three, so obviously the problem isn’t with me.”
But after some time looking at that concept with this child I will change my way of presenting it, find a new analogy or diagram, and it suddenly is perfectly clear.
The textbook is written for one language, and it can’t speak to everyone, so I need to translate and get inside the child’s head. Things that were confusing and a mess suddenly make sense.
And so, these two men are walking together, desperate to sort out this great mess. This man they hoped in is dead. And suddenly, there is Christ, and he speaks to them in their language. Bit by bit the story is translated for them, they see the history of salvation, and they hear it in a way that makes sense to them for the first time in their lives.
So, their hearts are alive again, they’re burning, but still they don’t recognize the man right in front of them. Until, “he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.”
With that their eyes were opened, and as soon as they recognize him, he vanishes from their sight. Of course, as Catholics, we see the breaking of the bread, the holy Eucharist, is what opened their eyes to finally see him.
The beauty of this Scripture is that, just as he waited for them on the road so they would not stay lost and despairing, he also stayed with them in the Eucharist, so they would not be left without him.
The faith I hold to is a faith of sacraments and sacramentals, a faith of burning hearts. Our God waits to find us on the road, and after opening our hearts, he offers to stay with us, that our burning hearts may never be left alone.