And it happened that, while 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 they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:30-32)
I have a strong feeling that the “age of Emmaus” is just around the corner. Perhaps there is much that will transpire between now and then, but I believe the time will come when hearts will burn to know about “this Jesus whom they crucified”. This belief might surprise some, given the way the world is treating Christians these days. But viewed through the eyes of faith there is every reason for Christians to cling to this hope with great joy. Through faith we believe that the victory is ours in Jesus the Lord!
If the disciples had fully comprehended the Lord’s warnings about his imminent death and consequent resurrection, would they not have walked the way of the cross in a completely different manner? But the Holy Spirit had not yet opened their minds to the great mysteries of salvation. It is a different matter for us. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit. We can interpret world events through the lens of eternity. We know about the resurrection. We believe, hope and trust in Jesus, the way, the truth and the life. We have recognized the Lord in the Breaking of the Bread. And by God’s great mercy this gift of faith is given freely to all who desire it.
The Catechism tells us in section 677: “The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.” Whether or not we believe that these events are imminent is irrelevant. The point of prophecy is not primarily to predict the future, but so that we may prepare our hearts to meet our Lord at any time, be it the final hour of our earthly life or the final hour of earthly life as we know it. But until that hour arrives, we have a mission, and as penitents we must know that our mission involves a cross.
We penitents are called to walk the way of the cross daily. But we do have an advantage even over the apostles—we are children of Pentecost! As such we must walk with joyful hope, no matter the circumstances. We have heavenly help; our Lord will not leave us orphaned. The Blessed Mother will never abandon us on the way of the cross. The Saints and Angels will pray for us and guide us. With their help, our joy and hope even in adversity can be a sign to the world that Jesus lives!
So, as St. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:15-17: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.”
At some point in our mission we will meet people on the road to Emmaus, people who will not understand the events portrayed in the Gospels, but whose hearts will burn to know more. Let us prepare ourselves ahead of time, through penance, prayer and study, to open the scriptures to those God sends us, so that they too may “recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread”. Let us be ready to share with others what we have been freely given, the great and glorious gift of faith.