3rd Sunday of Easter
“He gave the impression that he was going on farther”. But his heart remained with his two fellow travelers whom he was apparently leaving, and his wish was that the sight of him going away might kindle in their hearts a great desire that he would gladly yield to. It’s just like Jesus to do that. He used to do it over and over again in his earthly ministry.
There was that time when the disciples were out on the lake when Jesus came walking on the waters, and “he gave the impression that he was going on farther”, but when the disciples cried out, he got into the boat. Then there were the two blind men by the roadside crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on us”. But “he gave the impression that he was going on farther” to Jerusalem. The purpose of this apparent indifference was revealed when, as the Gospel puts it, “They cried out more earnestly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on us’”.
And that is what he does with all of us sometimes: he seems to leave our wishes and our longings all unnoticed. Then we may think to ourselves, “What’s the use of crying out to him? He doesn’t hear me”. But God raised “Christ from the dead and gave him glory” for that very reason – “so that your faith and hope would be in God”, faith to hear the promise: “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it”, fill it with the Body and Blood of Christ.
Christ has no other reason for any of the delays he puts us through, than to make us capable of a richer blessing, because delay deepens our longing, just as absence makes the heart grow fonder. He has an infinite desire this morning, just as he did on that resurrection evening, to draw near to every heart and impress upon us that he has been raised to life, and that he lives to bless us. But he cannot draw near to us unless we want him to, and he cannot give us more of himself than we wish. Therefore he has to make our desires greater and stronger, and then he will answer them.
Remember what the Gospels say about the villagers in his native Galilee: “He could work no miracles there because of their unbelief”. Our lack of faith is what limits his power; our faith is the measure of our capacity to receive a blessing from him. He asks us this morning, as he asked the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, “Are you slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke”?
There is one other thing hidden in this morning’s Gospel: Jesus is glad when we “urge him to stay with us”. “They urged him” is a very strong phrase, something like the one Jesus himself used when he spoke about the kingdom of heaven suffering violence, “and the violent take it by storm”. There is a real power in the hearts that really desire Jesus: they can tell him what he should do for them and how much of himself he should give them. On the other hand, the weakness of our desire limits to some extent what God can do for us, because unless we feel on fire as he converses with us on the road, we cannot recognize what he is doing in our lives.
So we are all in the position of the two disciples of Jesus. We can make sure that Jesus will always be our companion on the way to the Father if we do two things. First, he will stay with us always if we honestly and really wish him to be with us all the day long, and if we never go anywhere where he cannot go with us.
And second, as pope St Peter put it in his first encyclical this morning, we must “conduct ourselves with reverence during the time of our sojourning”. Our life is a journey we must travel with a deep consciousness of God, so we should not do anything or cultivate any attitude which would drive him away. How can we ask him to come in and sit down in a house which is full of filth and worldliness? First turn the demons out and open the door a crack, and Someone will say, “ I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you”.
He may “give the impression that he’s going on farther”, but if you urge him to stay with you, then at the breaking of bread he will come right in and stay with you, vanishing from your sight, but leaving your heart burning within you.