April 21, 2017
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
Now on that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all the things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them. [Luke 24:13-15]
The two disciples went away sad, downcast, silent. Little by little they break the silence. They share their discouraging impressions: We had hoped! Now everything is finished. They flee to the countryside. They had to know, however, that Jesus predicted his resurrection. They did not understand. They do not have a strong faith. They return to their daily occupations. They believe Jesus is forever dead, and he is a few steps behind them.
Jesus is also with us in our trials and desolations. Could his Heart remain cold and indifferent to our troubles? In the guise of a traveler, Jesus joined them. Distrustful, they are silent. They hardly dare to demonstrate their involvement with the cause of Christ. But the Savior insists and encourages them to speak. He knows that they were attached to him and that they keep an affection for him despite their disappointment. He will get them gently to recognize in him the characteristics of the redeeming Messiah. His tender and good Heart suggests to him the most appropriate manner to win these poor discouraged hearts.
They needed to unburden themselves; it’s true. But their confessions condemn them. There is a solemn fact, affirmed by their testimony: the tomb is empty. It is necessary to remain there and search for the explanation of this phenomenon. They fled the light. They believed in a temporal and immediate reign of the Messiah. As things did not go with him as they thought, they give up everything. This is often our reality. Like them we have little faith and we want Providence to accommodate our plans.
Jesus addresses a just rebuke to them. “How blind you are,” he tells them, “and how slow you are to believe what the prophets announced!” [cf. Luke 24:25]. And he reminds them of all the Messianic prophecies and all who prefigured the Redeemer. He makes them understand that salvation must be realized by expiation, suffering, and death, not by the conquest of the world.
Their understanding opens to these supernatural truths. Their heart is moved. It dawns on them that the Son of God wanted to suffer all this out of love for us! The Heart of Jesus opened his heart to win theirs. They believe and they love. Jesus wants to leave, but they press him to remain. They have not yet recognized him, but they already feel that they met a messenger of God. He has supper with them. He repeats the breaking of the bread as at the last supper. This time, they understood completely, they recognized him, but he disappeared.
His words, they say, penetrated our hearts like burning arrows. Their story is mine. I have little faith; I flee the light. I am slow to believe, I do not understand the way of the cross. I always want human success and earthly joys. Heart of Jesus, touch my heart and make it like your own.
The Year with the Sacred Heart, Easter Thursday, “The Appearance to the Disciples from Emmaus”
Heart of Jesus: Fr. Dehon's favored image of God's loving concern for all creation
The disciples’ contemporary dress of pants, shirts, and hat pull the viewer into this familiar scene at the moment they recognize Jesus “in the breaking of the bread.” Having been invited to an evening meal by two very bewildered travelers on their way to Emmaus, Jesus sits between them. His red robe suggests a passionate energy and an intensity of love that has its source in his heart. Visible as light or fire around his heart, this same energy forms a cruciform halo behind his head.
In the moment the two disciples recognize Jesus, they touch their hearts, which they would later describe as “burning within them.” On an intuitive level, they had reconnected with their Messiah long before the pessimistic logic of their minds could catch up. Fr. Dehon suggests that they fled from the light. In this image, the light not only comes to them, but also has entered into them.
While there are many ways to speak of the spirituality of the heart, Fr. Dehon uses the story of Emmaus to characterize its essence. “The Heart of Jesus opened his Heart,” he notes, “to win theirs.”
Image from the SCJ community house, Casa Sagrado Corazón, Montevideo, Uruguay
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
“The disciples believe that Jesus is forever dead, and he is a few steps behind them.” When has this experience played out in your life?
What are your plans, which you hope Providence will accommodate?
In what moments are you likely to recognize the presence of Jesus?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers those who are struggling with their faith and are tempted to walk away from it. You may find helpful this Prayer of Oblation, adapted from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
conqueror of sin and death,
you give us new life in the Spirit.
United to your gift of love,
we recognize you in the breaking of the bread.
Nourish our prayer and our service.
As prophets of love
and servants of reconciliation,
may we become an offering acceptable to God
as we journey toward your kingdom.
Each week reflections and prayers based in the Dehonian charism are published on the Dehonian Spirituality page of the U.S. Province website of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. This is an email version of that update.
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