Will our hearts be able to burn within again? – Third Sunday of Easter 2020
The Third Sunday of Easter offers us the story of the disciples’ walk to Emmaus and their encounter with the risen Lord. They move from despondency to being on fire. This takes place in the context of the blessing and breaking of bread.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. … They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road’.
How can the beautiful story of Emmaus help us in this strange moment? Is there any wisdom to offer to a people affected by COVID-19 and what it is doing to our social fabric, not to mention the health of millions? Certainly we bear some resemblance to the two disciples who are described as looking sad.
The Lord seems hidden from our midst these days. Many are asking where God is at this time. Is God silent? People are deprived of the Eucharist and other sacraments, of social freedoms, of certain forms of interaction, and so on.
It’s not an easy time for any of us, and probably an extremely difficult time for many people – those mourning the deceased, those with mental health issues, those who are lonely, those who have lost employment and life savings, those on their own, the shut-ins, and so many others.
Looking sad is an understatement for many people. They are losing hope and a sense of joy about life. The disciples felt that way because of the death of their friend. Many now feel that because of the reality that we are living.
Pope Francis, dioceses, religious communities and individual spiritual writers and leaders are daily reminding us that we are not alone and that we are being guided in this storm.
Those who use the Internet and social media know that a great deal of creative stuff is happening. It goes far beyond TV or live-streamed Mass, to include small faith community efforts around the Word of God.
I know that there is plenty out there to help our spiritual life. But how about so many who lack access to those tools, especially the women and men who fall between the cracks, including those who do not have a solid faith as the basis of their lives?
I know, and I suspect all those reading this post know, that we are not alone and God has not abandoned us. We are never deprived of our relationship with the Lord, regardless of what Sacraments we are deprived of. God didn’t cause COVID-19 and God won’t solve it.
We caused it and we hope that we can solve it. God’s role in all this is to be there as a source of hope and strength at this time. God is a source of inspiration. Perhaps there is a woman or man of faith who will discover a vaccine.
It is certain that there are many women and men of faith risking everything by being on the front line of this global war.
Back to Emmaus! Can it offer us anything? It’s a pretty lame response, but it shows us that it is possible to go from sadness to joy; it is possible to go from a sense of being abandoned by God to seeing Christ in something as simple as the breaking of bread.
Are you able to find God’s hand working in very ordinary and simple acts of love in these strange days? Psalm 16 today reminds us, You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore. There will come a day when our hearts will burn within!
Our hope tells us that this too shall pass, that we will someday be able to gather in ways that feel normal. The early Christian community often lived in fear, and yet we know that they prevailed and grew stronger.