Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Where's the fire?

Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
Luke 24: 15-16

In today’s Gospel (Luke 24:13-35) we hear again the post-resurrection account of two disciples walking along the road to Emmaus. They are disheartened. They still do not understand what it all means—Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Then Jesus himself joins them, and still, they do not see—at least initially.

I have been thinking about this passage (one of my favorites, which we will also hear on the third Sunday of Easter). Sadly, the two lines above (verses 15-16) are all too descriptive of many Christians (monks included). 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?

Thinking about this reminds me of the refrain to the hit song a few years back by the popular country music group Alabama:
I'm in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I'm in a hurry and don't know why
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.

Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, 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—monks are not immune from the agitated “busyness” of the world—I can only pray as we did today at Vigils that all 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!”

Or, in country music vernacular, we can sing (my apologies to Alabama):
I’m in no hurry to get things done
Oh I won’t rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
So I’m in no hurry, and Jesus is why

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