"Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" – Lk 24:32
Like the two disciples dragging their crucified dream toward Emmaus, many of us carry our broken dreams into adulthood. The two disciples in today’s Gospel walked with disillusionment and despair for their dream of a Messiah with political power and might died on the Cross. Many of us live lives of quiet desperation, frozen by fears, lost in love, unforgivable, unlovable, rejected, or lonely. We can be betrayed by those we trust, let go from good jobs, let down from those whom we thought believed in us, or disheartened by our family, church, society. God does not come through as we’d liked or lets us or those around us suffer chronic illnesses, crippling addictions, left to our worse selves. Many of us enter young adulthood with glorious dreams and great hope. But inevitably, our bubbles burst, reality bites, loneliness persists, deep childhood fears rise like tsunamis, meaningless jobs replace imagined careers. Quarter-life crisis overshadows us; mid-life crisis in our mid-twenties and mid-thirties.
One of my consistent patterns of crucified dreams lies with my idealism. Naively, I place too much hope in authoritative figures or structures. When their clay feet shows, when their darker sides appear, when agreed visions and plans are betrayed by distrust, fears, or excessive control, my heart breaks. I let disillusionment, anger, hopelessness take over. My spirit dies, I withdraw from relationship, I drop commitments. Like the disciples fleeing Jerusalem, I leave the place where dreams give life and prod through life kidding myself that I am still alive with love and passion, bent only on survival-mode.
Many times in my life, good friends have been my lifejackets. They challenge me to be real – to be open, honest, and vulnerable. They walk with me, support me, help me to be in touch with my broken dreams and false expectations. They let me grieve. Somehow I recognize God’s presence in our midst; I discover the Risen Jesus accompanying us; re-interpreting my suffering story, re-shaping my dream. Often, just sitting silently before Eucharist time after time re-awakens something deep within. Just sitting, trying to listen, look, and love as I struggle to voice and let difficult feelings be. Letting my dear friend in the Eucharist listen, look, and love me.
There is a life-force loved into us that no pain, sin, or injustice can kill; a fire that no crucified dream or hope can extinguish; an undercurrent of joy no unhappiness or failure can drown. It is not easy to access. Yet, like the seasons, it springs anew after dead winters of discontent. This resilient life within resurrects us from our spiritual deaths, from what Ronald Rolheiser calls “a string of empty tombs.” It is resilient, persistent, unstoppable.
Easter Season gives us the opportunity to let this tenacious life resurrect passion, elicit joy, re-ignite fire within us. We are beckoned by the Risen One, the Arsonist of the Heart, to witness this spirit of life!
“O Risen One, thaw my heart and its cold, dead chambers with your consoling presence and love.”