11 April 2007

Eyes open, hearts ablaze

Easter Octave (W): Acts 3.1-10 and Luke 24.13-35
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX


How foolish they are! And how slow of heart they are to believe all that the prophets spoke! And all that their fellow disciples have seen. And all that the people of Jerusalem report to be true. And everything that they have hoped for, dreamed of, and longed after. How foolish to be so slow of heart that even on Easter day itself they despair and fail to trust God’s Word! No wonder Jesus himself returns to walk with them; to open his Word for them; do everything for them in fact but sit you down with a My Bible Stories coloring book and help them fill in all the lines! They finally “get it” when he blesses and breaks bread with them: their Christ is with them still; and, so long as they faithfully bless and break bread together, he will never leave them! With this revelation, Christ vanishes and the disciples’ hearts burn within them. Whatever spiritual morass slowed their hearts, it is now consumed in the refueled furnace of faith. Grit and fluttering ash. They reverse course, run back to Jerusalem, find the Eleven, and loudly preach: “The Lord has truly been raised…!”

It’s three days past Easter day for us. Where is your heart? How’s it running? Luke warm, burning hot, cold as winter stone? For answers, none of these are surprising, are they? So difficult is the struggle to remain faithful that admitting even now—just three days into the octave!—admitting that our hearts have grown cold or colder wouldn’t take us by surprise. Why is it so difficult for us to believe? We can blame our secularist culture. Easy. Lax parents. Even easier. Fallen human nature. Easiest of all. And none of these is false for being easy, of course, but I wonder if they are by now stale cliché? Our disciples on the road to Emmaus are slow of heart to believe. Why? They admit to the stranger with them: “…we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel…” They were disciples, students and friends, of Jesus b/c they expected him to redeem Israel. Their disappointment is contagious—it spreads from their hard heads to their warmish hearts, gumming up the trusting works and turning Jesus suffering, death, and resurrection into a disheartening execution of yet another disappointing messianic figure. Though they call him “a prophet mighty in word and deed,” it appears that they skipped class on those days when Jesus all but strings a sign around his neck, reading: “I AM THE PROMISED MESSIAH!”

So, why do we find believing so difficult sometimes? One small answer from the gospel: God tends to act in ways that disappoint our expectations. How do we trust someone who often acts contrary to expectation? Someone who frequently surprises us? Or shocks us? Trusting someone else to do things correctly is exhausting work. Besides, bending all of creation to my will takes time and energy! How dare God spring little moments of random joy on me! How dare He thwart my plans for me! What does He expect from me: surrender? Abandonment of my will for His? How do I trust that the fire He has ignited in my heart won’t burn me alive? What can I hold back just for me? Nothing. Nothing at all.

At the Beautiful Gate, Peter said to the man crippled from birth: “…in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” All who saw him stand up and leap about were amazed and astonished at what had happened to him. Will all those see you today be amazed and astonished at the power of the fire that burns in your heart? Will they see in you a person once lame, walk…and run and leap about? Will they see in you the Risen Christ? Let them hear you and see you preach in word and deed our Easter shout: “The Lord has truly been raised!”

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