TWO KEY EXPERIENCES
With the passing of years, there spontaneously arose a very real problem in the Christian communities. Peter, Mary Magdala and the other disciples have lived through very «special» experiences of encounters with Jesus alive after his death. Experiences that for them brought them to «believe» in the Risen Jesus. But those who joined the group of followers later on, how could they awaken and nourish that same faith?
This is also our problem today. We haven’t lived through the encounter with the Risen One that the first disciples did. What experience can we count on ourselves? This is what the story of the disciples of Emmaus presents.
Two people are walking toward their homes, sad and heartbroken. Their faith in Jesus has been extinguished. They no longer hope anything about him. All has been an illusion. Jesus, who follows them without revealing himself, reaches them and walks with them. Luke presents the situation thus: «Jesus came up and walked by their side; but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him». What could happen to cause them to experience his living presence next to them?
What’s important is that these disciples aren’t forgetting about Jesus; «they are talking and discussing» about him; they remember his «words» and his «actions» as those of a great prophet; they let an unknown person go on explaining what had happened. Their eyes don’t open right away, but «their heart begins to burn within».
It’s the first thing we need in our communities: remember Jesus, plunge into his message and his deeds, meditate on his crucifixion… If in a given moment Jesus moves us, his words reach us within and our heart begins to burn: this is the sign that our faith is waking up.
It’s not enough. According to Luke, what’s needed is the experience of the Eucharistic meal. Though they still don’t know who he is, the two walkers feel the need for Jesus. They enjoy his company. They don’t want him to leave: «Stay with us». Luke underlines it joyfully: «Jesus went in to stay with them». In the meal their eyes are opened.
These are the two key experiences: feel our heart burn when we remember his message, his deeds and his whole life; feel that when we celebrate the Eucharist, his person nourishes us, strengthens us and consuls us. That’s how faith in the Risen One grows in the Church.
Jose Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf