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Sunday 26 April 2020

Did not our hearts burn within us

Acts 2:14a, 36-41, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35

By Mark Woods
Roman Catholic Parish Deacon, Chair National Conference of Deacons and Vice President of the International Diaconate Centre

Context: a Catholic Saturday Night Vigil Mass celebrated in a suburban parish with a mainly older congregation of 70 people
Aim: to help us see that Christ walks with us in our life and in our liturgy but that we are also called to be Christ to those who are uncertain and downcast

I can remember in my 20s – just!! - when I attended a retreat for young people and being asked to go on an Emmaus walk with another of the young people on the retreat. We were read today’s passage from Luke’s Gospel and asked to reflect together on our journeys of faith to date as we walked. Many years having passed and I can, not surprisingly, no longer remember the exact content of our conversation or indeed subsequent Emmaus walk experiences in later years, but I do remember most of the individuals whom I walked with and that real sense that in these conversations Jesus walked with us and that like the two disciples our hearts did indeed burn within us!

It is so easy as we all journey through life that we, like the two disciples in the today’s Gospel become downcast and despondent about what is going on in our lives and in the world around us. We, as did those disciples, often fail to recognise Jesus walking with us, and like them are fools and worse, slow to understand the good news that Jesus brings us at each moment of our life no matter what the situation of our lives and the life of the world.

Perhaps during this Mass and in the week ahead, or indeed now for a few moments now we can take time to look back on our day, on our week, on our year or even our life to date and see Jesus walking with us and the moments when our hearts did indeed burn within us. Let us stop and reflect for a few moments ... (pause for people to reflect on this).

I don’t know whether you suddenly recognised Jesus in the moments of your life, walking with you and others. Did you understand that is no need to be downcast, for we now know that Jesus is risen and ‘all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.’

So, continue to ponder this for the rest of Mass and in the week ahead.

Indeed, the liturgy we now celebrate in a sense reflects that pattern of the Luke’s story of the walk to Emmaus. Just like the two disciples in the Gospel we heard the scriptures, and hopefully this homily will help you understand them just as Jesus explained them to the disciples and then we come to celebrate the Eucharist when in the bread and wine we can once again recognise Jesus present to us. Then at the end we are told to ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord’ and like the two disciples we rush out to share the good news that Jesus is risen and is with us. We should be able to say after each Mass ‘Did not our hearts burn within us!’

We are called to take our burning hearts and the news that Jesus is risen to the world around us. Just like Peter in the first reading preaching to the people of Jerusalem, and again in his letter to an early Christian community we are called to share what we have experienced with others. We are called to be that Jesus walking alongside those who are downcast and despondent, those who are in need through sickness of body or mind, those who are uncertain and unsure in the turbulence of this world so that in us they might recognise the One we preach, Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead.

Jesus has been walking with us from our baptism we need to go out and be Jesus to the world so that others might catch fire from our hearts that are burning, and they too might say from that encounter ‘Did not our hears burn within us!’

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