There is a disturbing little story about a dying Buddhist monk who asked a Catholic priest to instruct him in the truths of the faith. The priest did his best to comply with the monk’s wishes.
Afterwards the monk thanked him, but added, “You filled my mind with beautiful thoughts, but you left my heart empty.”
So his heart was empty – empty of what? What was it he truly wanted? Comfort and reassurance, I suppose. In a word – love. Beautiful thoughts can nourish the mind. But they can’t nourish the heart. Only an experience of love can nourish the heart.
The story of the journey to Emmaus is essentially a story about the heart. As the two disciples set out on that journey their hearts were cold and empty, heavy with sorrow, wounded by disappointment, and numb with grief. They had firmly believed that Jesus was the Messiah. But his death, and in particular the manner of it, had reduced their hopes to rubble. A humiliated, crucified Messiah! It was unthinkable.
But then Jesus joined them and began to open their minds to the idea of a suffering Messiah. With the words of Jesus light and warmth began to filter into their dark, cold hearts.
What did Jesus do for them? He certainly illuminated their minds. But he did something better. He set their hearts on fire. “Were not our hearts burning within us as he explained the scriptures to us?”
Faith is very much concerned with the mind in so far as it has to do with truths, dogmas, doctrines, creeds and catechisms. But it is even more concerned with the heart. It consists in a relationship of love with the God who first loved us. Without this, faith is like a fireplace without a fire.
We will never believe with a vigorous and unquestioning faith unless God touches our hearts. It is to the heart that the call of God comes. (Blaise Pascal)
What was the main thing that came across to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? It was the conviction that Jesus loved them. That is what made their hearts burn. The story shows the goodness of God who makes our deepest dreams come true in the most surprising of ways.
And the story also shows us what ministry is all about. It means to walk with people, to be present to them, to listen – these are the essential “good works” of today. (Flor McCarthy)
Congratulations to the children who made their first Holy Communion today. I hope your hearts are burning within you. May you have the eyes and heart to see Christ walking with you throughout your life.