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Monday, May 9, 2011

Were not our hearts burning within us?

"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?'" (Lk 24:32)

The Road to EmmausOne of the greatest threats to the love of God and neighbor, and therefore our salvation, is an indifferent heart. In stark contrast to this indifference or lukewarmness, this Sunday's Gospel presents us with two disciples whose hearts catch fire with divine love as they converse with the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus. We see this same interior fire of love in the heart of St. Peter in this Sunday’s first reading, as he fearlessly proclaims the death and resurrection of Christ to all those gathered in Jerusalem. From these two examples we learn that a disciple is one whose heart is alive and burning with the love of God and neighbor – this love is in fact the soul of discipleship, and needs to increase within us always. To inspire a concrete reflection on this Sunday’s liturgy we can ask ourselves two challenging questions: “how intensely does the love of God and neighbor burn within my heart?” and “what can I do to increase that intensity of divine love?” Let’s throw more light on the answer to these questions by looking at one real modern day threat to the fire of divine love present to most of us on a day to day basis. 

We live in a world consumed by advertising and marketing. Advertisers vie unremittingly for our attention, our affection, and ultimately our devotion. They attempt to convince us that we need this or that product, and that until we have what they're selling, we're missing something - or worse, we're inferior to those who use their product. Let’s first admit that advertisers are very good at what they do. And with the sheer amount of new products on the market and the advertising that inundates our daily lives, it’s easy to surrender more and more of our attention, time, and energy to the things of this world. This is clearly not an exhortation to never buy anything ever again - but it in light of Jesus’ words, “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be,” (see Mt 6:19-21) it does call us to ponder how much of our heart ends up being dispersed or consumed by the world. As disciples we need to protect our hearts, and guard how much attention and value we put on the things of this world. We need to be attentive and vigilant lest the fire of divine love be extinguished within and we find ourselves indifferent or lacking energy and excitement for the things of God.

In addition to protecting the fire of divine love within, we also need to feed it – or fan it into flame again should it ever be in danger of going out. The readings for this Sunday point to two principal sources for this “fire”: the Holy Spirit whom God pours out on His disciples, and Jesus who reveals Himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus through the Scriptures, and above all in the breaking of the bread – the Eucharist – when “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” God is the source of our love. To ignite or keep the fire of divine love burning within we need to encounter the Lord in prayer – not a haphazard prayer whenever we happen to think about God, but a conscious and concrete program of prayer on a day to day basis so we train our heart to direct its energy and affection to the living God. If you expect a fire to keep burning you need to throw wood on it more than once a week, in fact, more than once a day – so it is with the fire of God’s love within the human heart; it needs to be fed and sustained with daily prayer. If this fire goes out, charity and the desire to bring Christ to our neighbor also grows cold. May the Lord send forth His Spirit to renew our hearts and the face of the world as we seek the Risen One in the Scriptures and in the “breaking of the bread.” God bless you and Happy Mother's Day to all Mom's out there!

(Photo of the "The Road to Emmaus" courtesy of Dcn. Lawrence Lew, O.P.)