III Sunday of Easter:  Jesus, Help me to appreciate everyone I meet

April 23, 2023

Today’s message from the Holy Spirit and Jesus is simple, profound and reassuring.  That he walks with us and will appear to us, from time to time, when we are with others, when we are just walking along in life and not expecting him to happen by.

We are accustomed to find Jesus in the Scriptures, of course.  We are used to finding Jesus in the Sacraments.  We are used to finding Jesus in Holy Communion.  We are used to finding Jesus in prayer.  We are not used to finding Jesus in strangers or in others!  What is that all about?

The two disciples of Jesus today are leaving Jerusalem (going in the wrong direction – all the action is there [in Jerusalem]!), disappointed and on to find new lives.  Jesus is dead although they have heard rumors to the contrary.

Instead of staying in Jerusalem where all the action and new revelation is taking place, they are now onto something else.

So, I think this is Jesus’ first reminder to us – stay focused.  Because your prayers are not immediately answered at the snap of your request, does not mean that Jesus is not for real.

Because terrible things happen to us at the hands of others or because of failing health or by accident is no particular reason to give up on Jesus.  He is better than alcohol, drugs, or abstaining from searching Jesus out, or just hoping that He would show up like he does today.

The purpose of our organized Christian and Catholic faith is not to give us truths to believe or rituals to practice or to turn our relationship with Jesus into a magic system to make our life easy.  Jesus’ purpose was to draw us close to himself, in order to draw us closer to the heart of his Father.  The heart of religion is always more important than its rules and customs, or a light-hearted sporadic practice of it.

This is one thing that the early Christians understood.  Jesus engages these two would-be, wannabe disciples today in a surprising way, walking up alongside them, engaging them by sharing what he knew about God His Father, revealing and connecting their religious history.  “Were not our hearts burning within us, while he spoke to us on the way?”  That is our experience as well when we are connected to the real risen Jesus – He is more than an historical figure with “the message” about how to live real life and to do real care.

We have to find the real Jesus our self.  We are here today to find the real Jesus in his living words as we hear them, as they speak to our lives and hearts, in the smiles and conversations with fellow parishioners and friends. In our spiritual friendships and in our connections with each other, we live and work together, we make sense together out of life – as we own its mystery, as it awakens us to life, as it stirs us with its pain and futility.

When we “get it” ourselves, then God will allow us to be a stranger who helps unlock the heart of someone else.  It is not what we believe so much, but how we interact with each other that opens our hearts to the miracles of life and to a fuller, richer experience of Jesus who is here with us.

We will find everything in Jerusalem, the Risen Jesus, the friends and community of Jesus, the Breaking of the Bread.  There is nothing to see in Emmaus.  We are on the road to life, not to escape.

We maintain our focus and our calm by letting Jesus walk alongside us in life, by having frequent conversations, even though we might think that we are talking to ourselves.

Jesus, you have so many faces and hearts.  Help me to appreciate everyone I meet and everyone who is a part of my life.  May your heart burn within us!

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