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Rachel LuApril 02, 2024
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

Find today’s readings here.

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?”

It is the most important day in the history of the world. Jesus has conquered death and risen to new life. Hell has been harrowed, and the gates of heaven stand open. Meanwhile, Jesus’ disciples are standing around “looking downcast,” and when he approaches and asks for the latest news, they think he’s the one out of the loop.

Clearly, they are behind the times, but Jesus is patient with them. He understands that it is hard for mere mortals to wrap their minds around an event of this magnitude. Accordingly, he does not reveal himself immediately, but instead walks with them, engaging them in conversation and laying the groundwork for a fuller understanding of the truth of his resurrection. He knows, of course, that the entire history of Israel has been building to this day. The disciples have not grasped this, but they do show a certain readiness to be taught, explaining that they are “astounded” by the things they have heard from the women about the empty tomb and noting that it is the third day. They are prepared to believe that something extraordinary is afoot, but they can’t quite put the pieces together.

By accompanying them along their journey, Jesus prepares his disciples for the more intimate encounter he wants to have with them. Instead of overwhelming their intellect, he approaches them in the guise of a stranger, enabling them to air their doubts and concerns more comfortably. He lays the groundwork for them by going back through Scripture, supplying important context in terms that they can understand. He allows them to invite him into their home, instead of presuming they would be hospitable. Only after all these preliminaries have been observed, and he himself made welcome, does he sit down at the table with them. Then he breaks the bread. And the truth, indeed Truth himself, is suddenly clear to them.

God walks with us, even when we are unable to see or recognize him. Lost in our anxiousness and gloom, we may find ourselves lamenting his absence at the very moment when he is patiently explaining exactly what we most need to know. Even when we yearn for him, we may not be ready yet for the moment when our eyes are opened. But he is still nearby, preparing us in ways we haven’t yet grasped, for the moment when our eyes are opened. He waits for us to invite him inside before sitting down at our table.

We should notice also that Jesus prepares his disciples for this final encounter in multiple ways, feeding their intellects and also causing “their hearts to burn within them.” But they see him at last in the breaking of bread. A Sacramental encounter marks the final consummation and the moment of epiphany. Jesus literally offers himself to us, not only in spirit but in his very body.

The gates of heaven stand open. Keep walking, and be open to having some company along the way.

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