The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Recognizing Jesus

A meditation on the Mass readings
for Wednesday within the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:1-10; Luke 24:13-35)

Walking along the road to Emmaus, two of Jesus’ disciples are disheartened. They still do not understand what it all means—Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. All their hope seems to have vanished along with him (see Luke 24:13-35).

Then Jesus himself joins them, and still, they do not truly see—at least initially. As Luke’s Gospel tells us: “Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”

Sadly, this is all too descriptive of many Christians. Jesus draws near, he walks with us, and tries to show us the way. If we allow him, as the two disciples do in today’s Gospel, he will eventually get through in Word and Sacrament.

But how often do we really do that? So often, it seems to me, we are so intent on our routines, so “busy” with “important” matters, so eager to keep moving along to the next thing, that we leave Jesus there by the side of the road without even noticing him.

I can just imagine him calling out, “Hey guys, wait up!”

Sorry, we say politely, we’re late. We need to be going.

Or, even if we do allow him to join us, doesn’t it seem that all too often, we’re not really “there”? Preoccupied, we just go through the motions—even in the breaking of the bread.

First we do this, then that. Later comes this, that, and the other. We need to hurry, though.

But, what if we simply slowed down a little, and ...

... breathed deeply,
... allowed a little variation in the routine,
... entered into the sound of the gently falling rain and distant thunder,
... watched the evening sun sink beyond the horizon,
... read something without expecting to “get something out of it” or “do something with it”?

What if we noticed the journey rather than focusing on the destination?

What if we observed something without instantly analyzing or critiquing it?

What if we really listened to someone—anyone—without at the same time formulating our own judgment, response, or opinion?

What if we were simply present to the presence of Christ—God among us?

What if we just stood still to let Jesus catch up with us?

What else is so important, anyway?

Yes, as human beings, we need to be fruitfully occupied. But even noble or holy tasks can become ruthless masters. Life is not a series of tasks to be completed or appointments to be kept. Rather, life is about who we bring to those tasks and appointments—and who we leave with as we move from one to another. Hopefully, by the grace of God, who we bring and who we leave with is not quite the same person. There should be a discernible progression. We should become more like Christ—our companion along the Way. And that means spending time with him, for absolutely no other reason than because he is Jesus. Can we allow ourselves to simply “waste time” in the presence of Jesus each day?

Earlier in Luke’s Gospel (10:38-42), Jesus tells the agitated Martha that her attentive sister Mary has chosen the better part. If Martha and Mary had been the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, I imagine Martha would be way out in front of Mary, worried about keeping good time, hollering back at her loitering sister to step it up.

Mary, meanwhile, would be wandering from one side of the path to another, absorbing the wonder of God’s creation all around her. Stopping to watch a butterfly or pick a flower, perhaps, suddenly Jesus would be there. They then walk side by side, leisurely but passionately conversing, totally absorbed in one another, and calling out to Martha, “Hey, wait up!”

Martha, though, simply mutters and quickens her pace.

When I happen to notice Martha in another person, or in myself, I can only pray that our hearts will burn within us (cf. Psalm 39:4; Luke 24:32) for the presence of Christ. May it always be, so that as Jesus draws near and walks with us, our eyes recognize him, and our voices plead, “Stay with us, Lord!”

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