Influenza B came to join us just in time for the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. It didn’t stop us from enjoying our family or the joy of the Risen Christ on Easter, but along with the rainy weather and illness, it was a different kind of day. Perhaps like the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus in today’s gospel passage, Luke 24:13-35, we can get mislead and confused by our circumstances, expectations and feelings, even on (and sometimes most especially during) the most joyful occasions. Opening our eyes to Christ can often require assistance from God in the midst of our own lack of understanding–like these two disciples, who encounter Christ in an unexpected place.
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
…but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
Sometimes we can’t recognize the Lord because we are stubborn. When we are struggling with illness or things don’t go our way for whatever reason–usually by means of our own false expectations–we can become derailed. Christ is our “light” regardless of whether or not we decide to “hit the switch” and turn him “on”, by seeking him in prayer. Our human nature is such that we live often under the guise of some untruth that we accepted by way of a deceptive whisper into our soul when we were vulnerable at some point along our path. The “liar” may sound like our own voice (but it comes from an evil deceiver), but the lie may sound something like these (root sin in parentheses):
- “I shouldn’t have to put up with this!” (false righteousness/pride)
- “What’s wrong with everyone?” (indignation/pride)
- “Why do I always get the shaft?” (self-pity/vanity)
- “If it weren’t for (insert name of arch-nemesis here) I wouldn’t be in this situation!” (blame/vanity and pride)
- “I am not getting paid enough to deal with this stuff!” (pride)
- “No one understands me.” (vanity)
Basically, the lie is something we embrace because holding on to it serves us in someway; we blame others or makes excuses for ourselves, so to live more comfortably in the world, because our spiritual self is so uncomfortable. Our truth is there somewhere, but we shovel a hefty portion of excuses and blame all over it and cover it up. Why? Because if we don’t, we feel vulnerable and we have to work hard at becoming uncomfortable and trusting that something bigger than myself may be out there…God. That, my friends, is humility (the opposing virtue to pride)–and humility is the virtue by which we begin to LIVE our TRUTH. To begin to find our way to humility and truth, we must ask the Lord in prayer to reveal to us where we have been deceived.
In the reading today, as the two disciples meet up with this stranger, (who is actually Jesus) they recount what has just occurred on this Easter Day regarding the empty tomb, not understanding themselves what has actually happened, and feeling downcast, because perhaps they too, have been deceived into a lack of hope.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his Body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
But him they did not see…
Do you seek Christ but him you do not see? If you ask Christ to reveal himself to you throughout your day, you may be surprised. He won’t usually reveal himself in the way you might expect. No one expected a tiny baby from a poor family to be the Messiah. No one expected a quiet boy from Nazareth to be the Savior (Isn’t this the son of Joseph? Luke 4:22), or that he would be sacrificed for our own salvation in such a way? But God’s ways are not our ways. He is brilliantly purposeful and intentional (Romans 8:28). He does all things by design and begins at the cellular level and into the cosmos (Ben Sira 39:21, Psalm 104, Acts 1).
If you ask Christ to reveal himself to you each day, you may be surprised to feel kindness toward those who normally annoy you. You may feel a sense of concern for a stranger, or suddenly notice the color of the sky and feel a hint of awe. You may not see angels or an empty tomb, because God is subtle and gentle with us, and only asks from us an act of faith.
I have found that God quietly shows up in places where He knows my heart has hardened. If I am asking Him to help me know and love Him more, then I can bet that like an Olympic coach running drills on that deficiency for His athlete, He is going to work on my weaknesses, and strengthen me in the ways that serve Him best. He knows what brings peace and joy into my spirit in the way I need it most and if I am willing and humble He can work in and through me. But if I think I know better than Him it won’t happen. We must begin our day with some act of faith in His working through our lives, and ask “Open my eyes, Lord“. We can’t always control our faith, but we can do like the centurion who says to Jesus, “Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) Being humble enough to admit when we can’t always muster our own faith, especially when things are hard, can take just as much faith to ask for that help from God, and He is more than happy to help.
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…
“…and they recognized him”
Since Easter and Influenza B have come around, I found myself in strange predicament. Before Lent began, I had a thick spiritual plan laid out for how I would pursue holiness over the next 40 days, but a chapel visit set me straight. I felt, really felt deep in my heart, that the Lord asked me just to come visit him in the Eucharist every day. This meant for me to go to the chapel and spend time in silence, or daily mass if possible. I only missed a handful of days due to travel or illness, but overall, I felt myself so transformed by this experience of this habit of being with Jesus–body, blood, soul and divinity–in the essence of what we call the Eucharist (which means thanksgiving).
Sometimes I was able to sit for five minutes in the chapel, sometimes and hour and a half, but the amount of time was not as indicative to results as was the effort I made to get there and the way I felt real gratitude and adoration in my heart for my God.
In the past several days, I have had to offer a different kind of prayer. When we act as a care-giver for someone young or elderly, sick or distraught, we can make our caring acts a prayer; remembering, as did St Teresa of Calcutta, that Jesus is in everyone, and when we care for them we care for him. We need to be mindful, however, of the danger of the pouring out of ourselves without the pouring in of God’s grace. We can serve and love others, but without turning to God in prayer for strength first, we are serving from emptiness, which if left unchecked can turn into resentment.
When our routine is upset by something like illness, it often takes us aback and in need of recollection. My prayer as it had been during Lent began to wane as I tried to manage running to doctors and the pharmacy, and preparing meals and medicines. Like these two disciples, I was looking for the Lord in the places where I had usually sought Him, in the little tabernacle in my mind, where it was comforting and easy for me to pray. But being thrown off of my usual routine (“him they did not see”) I struggled to recognize him under these changed circumstances. So when he presents himself to me in my sick child, or a word of encouragement from a loved one, I must remember he is there too. He meets me where I am on the road to Emmaus. All he requires from me is to seek him first, turn on the “switch” by my prayers, ask for help when I need it, and take him however he presents himself to me in my day; asking him to open my eyes to whatever that may be.