“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” — Luke 24:13-35
Did my spirit promptly rise with Jesus this Easter Sunday as our Lord triumphantly stepped out of the tomb to church choirs singing ALLELUIA? To be honest, no. The “He is risen” cue went up signaling that it was safe for everyone to sing and dance again, so I scrambled to the closet of emotions and grabbed good ol’ ’excitement,’ gave it a dust and threw it on. Hooray! Jesus is risen! Although, underneath, sorrow was still tossing and turning in my heart.
I must say though, a core grace that has always swooped in and saved my butt over 33 measly years of life is this: throwing myself onto the floor at the mercy of God’s feet. When I can’t see God’s face, I know I can always find His feet. But isn’t that how it so often works? Spiritual growth begins when I’m dead honest with myself and God in the moment. Jesus can rise all the live-long day till kingdom come, but if God is saying, “I want you to stay put, Marty,” then that is what it is. When I am able own up to where I am, here and now, in a raw and honest way, and stay close to gentle companionship — be it we are completely anxious and lost together on the road — I find that I live in a way that allows new life to rise up in and around me.
Ironically enough, yesterday, during a random conversation, a few murky areas in my heart made more sense out of the blue: Mom’s slow dying, dad’s inner turmoil, painful misunderstandings, friends suffering… these painful ‘life dots’ connected themselves, in an unsolicited way. Though the clarity didn’t interest me so much as the feeling that accompanied it. It felt like a weird oozing calm, yet a familiar enduring gentleness. There was certainly a kind of ‘heart warming’ effect that quieted my soul yet compelled me to name it on the spot: yep, that’s Him. Unmistakably. Recognizing this “it” lead to a kind of sacred flashback. Holy cow, Lord, You were the gentle resilience embracing the arrows that flew that day, that’s what that moment was. You were the forgiveness I had for myself after my patience ran dry the other day. You were the steady loving eyes that allowed me access into dad’s hell, that’s what that other moment was. You are the electricity of joy that I feel when mom is near. You are this divine ooze that allows me to see and hear and bear so much more than my sanity would ever ask for, that’s what this is.
But don't these moments play out in this way sometimes? On any given day, we go about spinning our metaphorical web through life unassumingly, perhaps lucky enough that day to let God be God and us be us. It is on one of these days, when we may suddenly witness new life happening — like clouds that suddenly fill the sky as soon as you look away.
My friend, how would you describe this experience? I hope to God that we never tire of rushing to be with one another; that we never second guess our desire to be at each other’s sides, to be with gentle souls we know and trust, to walk together on this holy yet hazardous road, and to share our ‘empty tombs’ and ‘burning hearts’ that ebb and flow to the steps of Christ risen.
Martin Ngo, SJ