Eucharistic Theology

When Your Heart Is Disappointed, Jesus Walks Beside You

“What are you discussing as you walk along?”

In the Gospel of Luke, these are the first words of Jesus spoken after his Resurrection. With this question, Jesus sought to break into a conversation that two of his disciples were engaged in as they walked away from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

“What are you discussing as you walk along?” (Lk. 24:17)

Jesus came alongside these two downcast disciples. They had followed Jesus with the hope that he would be the one who at last would restore Israel. Instead, he had died on a cross. Their dreams for him and for themselves had been crushed by the weight of this seeming catastrophe. Jesus came alongside them, wanting to be with them even in the messy places of their sorrow, where they had given up on life with him. His simple question startled them.

“What are you discussing as you walk along?”

He Asks You

The two companions that day on the road to Emmaus stand for you and me. Jesus walks beside each of us and asks the same question: “What are you discussing as you walk along?”

What breaks your heart?

What disappointments are forcing you to change your plans?

What did you expect would happen and hasn’t?

Which of your dreams have been dashed?

Jesus invites himself into your life with simple questions:

What is in your heart?

Why are you crying?

What do you wish had happened?

What hasn’t worked out that makes you so sad?

“Jesus is not afraid of the ways in which we hurt. He doesn’t hold back from conversations that might lead down difficult paths and into places in our hearts where the sun no longer shines.”

Jesus is not afraid of the ways in which we hurt. He doesn’t hold back from conversations that might lead down difficult paths and into places in our hearts where the sun no longer shines. The Son of God wants to go precisely to where we are confused about what has happened, about what God is doing, about what God wants of us. He wants to be close enough to us that he can dry our tears, wrestle with us in our wrath, walk through the darkness of our confusion.

“What are you discussing as you walk along?”

The Scriptures Come Alive

From my tween years, I have frequently been surprised at the way that God seems to answer my unspoken questions through the readings of the Mass. The first time I noticed this I was probably twelve years old. Week after week, the Sunday Mass readings seemed to have been chosen specifically for me. They offered light, consolation, courage, and conviction regarding the things I was living in my twelve-year-old life. In a sense, I felt Jesus “coming alongside me” and asking that simple question he had asked 2000 years ago, “What are you discussing as you walk along? I want to know what’s happening in your life. I want you to be freed with my truth, strengthened on my way, enlivened with my love.”

“No other prayer has the power of the celebration of the Liturgy to give us the possibility of a true encounter with Jesus!”

This wasn’t just a beautiful spiritual idea. In his recent letter Desidario Desideravi, Pope Francis refers to a homily of Pope St. Leo the Great, who said that the beauty of the liturgy is that what was visible in Jesus as he walked this earth, what the disciples could see with their eyes and touch with their hands, his words, his incarnate presence, his very love for them, the mystery of redemption, everything, had passed into the celebration of the Sacraments. (1) No other prayer has the power of the celebration of the Liturgy to give us the possibility of a true encounter with Jesus!

Difficult Truth

Jesus loved his disciples too much to leave them in their illusion about the meaning of his life and theirs. He didn’t say, “Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I’m really going to start something super now that I’ve risen from the dead and I have a great place for you in my plans.”

Instead, the Gospel of Luke states: “And he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’” (Luke 24:25-26)

Such difficult but ever so life-giving words!

“Jesus, instead, helps me to see the way the Father’s love is writing straight with what seem like the crooked lines in my life.”

To tell you the truth, there are many broken-hearted moments in which I would have loved to hear Jesus say to me: “I’m going to make it all better, and you’re going to be able to hold on to your dreams the way you had them. Just wait ’til you see what I’m doing for you!” Jesus, instead, helps me to see the way the Father’s love is writing straight with what seem like the crooked lines in my life. The readings of the Mass break open a way that leads to life only through the self-giving and self-sacrificing love of Calvary.

A Burning Heart

At the very end of the narrative, after the two disciples had listened to Jesus’ words of truth and life, after Jesus had broken bread with them in the evening, the two travelers burst out in astonishment and joy: “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

“That is what I want! A burning heart! Isn’t that what we all want?”

That is what I want! A burning heart! Isn’t that what we all want? A heart that burns with such meaning and hope and confidence that we can walk through every situation in our lives, secure in our Father’s love?

As I listen year in and year out to the Liturgy of the Word at Mass on Sunday, I listen to Jesus, and Jesus listens to me. Jesus reminds me that there is joy in taking up the Cross and that I still have meaning in the winter seasons of my life when the seed seems to be buried in the earth. The energy I give in serving another is worth it because it is then that I am actually serving Christ, and resurrection always follows those Calvary moments that punctuate my life: When I am experiencing myself as poor and in need of him and others, I am indeed blessed.

Tell Jesus Everything

Jesus comes alongside you each Sunday in the celebration of the Eucharist. He asks you what is on your heart as you prepare for the Eucharistic Celebration. Talk to Jesus about what is making you joyful or sad. He asks you: “What is happening within you?” Tell Jesus everything. What do you need? What do you wish you had? What do you feel you have lost? Where do you need his help? In what aspect of your life do you wish you could see God’s presence more clearly?

After you have had the courage to honestly share your heart with Jesus as did these two disciples, expect that in the proclamation of the Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word, Jesus will share with you what he has in his heart for you.

“In the Mass, through Jesus’ presence in both Word and Sacrament, he fulfills his desire and his promise to be with us, each of us, always.”

“What are you discussing as you walk along?”

We can try to figure out our own way through life’s more difficult moments, but Jesus wants to walk alongside us and help us find in those broken places meaning and hope. In the Mass, through Jesus’ presence in both Word and Sacrament, he fulfills his desire and his promise to be with us, each of us, always.

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(1) Cf. Leo Magnus, Sermo LXXIV: De ascensione Domini II, 1: «quod […] Redemptoris nostri conspicuum fuit, in sacramenta transivit». Cited in Pope Francis, Apostolic Letter Desiderio Desideravi, no. 9.

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