There is a famous painting of the road to Emmaus experience by the artist Robert Zund (posted above). In the painting you see three men walking through a towering forest. Their backs are to you – almost as if the viewer is walking the path behind them. The man in the middle (the risen Lord) is talking and gesturing while the other two are in rapt attention. You can almost hear Jesus explaining the Scriptures and feel the breeze of the day as you enter into the scene.
In my vocation work I have often thought that a good vocation/discipleship poster would be to cut out the images of the three men walking, then find some black and white photos of everyday life (i.e. a busy city street scene, people going to a ball game or attending a fair or festival, etc.) and splice (keeping proportions correct) the image of the risen Lord and two disciples into the heart of the crowd. Then add a catchy phrase like: “The call continues.” or “Do you also want your heart to ‘burn within you’?”
Why the poster? Because it is in the everyday that Christ comes to us and it is here in the Mass – in the opening of Scripture and in the breaking of bread – when our eyes are opened to recognize and name those moments when our hearts burned within us in our encounters with the Lord. As disciples we need both and we are meant for both – not just one or the other (either the everyday or the liturgical).
The Mass is the Emmaus road encounter.
But, the risen Lord comes to us. This is important to note. When we gather on Sunday for Mass, when all of our Emmaus walks converge, we do not just remember the past or tell stories of a time long ago. Christ is here. Christ in his grace and revelation opens the Scriptures to us. Christ himself breaks the bread (his body and his blood) for us. When we gather for Mass on our Emmaus road we do not just reflect on an idea. Here, we encounter the risen Lord and he speaks to our hearts and he shares his very self.
“Were not our hearts burning within us?”