Today is very special for me, because on April 15, 1963, my classmates and I were ordained to the priesthood. It was Easter Monday that year, so I celebrate two annual anniversaries: Easter Monday and April 15.
One of the most beautiful events in the life of the risen Christ occurred on the afternoon of the day on which he rose from the tomb. Two of his former disciples are returning to their own home from Jerusalem. They are disillusioned by the fact that Jesus’s whole career seems to have been destroyed and ended in failure on the cross and then in the tomb. They are sad, embarrassed by having believed him to be the promised one, and probably dreading being laughed at by their relatives and friends at home who might well taunt them by saying: “We told you so!”
A stranger falls in with them and asks what they are talking about. They confess their sadness, their sense of failure. And then there comes the passage which I have always loved, and for which, more than any other in scripture, I would love to have been present for. Beginning with Moses, the unknown stranger explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself—the Christ!
We know the rest of the story: they are thrilled with what this man is saying; it begins to make sense of Jesus’s sufferings and death. Understanding replaces confusion, and above all, hope replaces despair. He seems to be going on when they come to their destination. “Stay with us,” they plead; “it’s getting dark and you can’t travel by night.” He reveals himself to them in the act of breaking bread as they have supper together. And then he vanishes. And they say so powerfully, “Were not our hearts BURNING within us as he spoke to us and explained the scriptures to us?” Despite the falling of night, they rush back to Jerusalem and burst in upon the apostles gathered in the upper room, and each tells the other of having seen their risen friend and master—and Lord!
As I say, I love this passage—the burning hearts as the natural sunset occurs outside, but within, there is a brilliant sunrise of understanding and faith and joy. And we, too, share that joy because we are people of understanding and faith; we are Christians and to be Christian means to adore, believe in, trust in, and love the God-man who has nail-wounds in his hands and feet, and a lance-wound in his side, but who is eternally and victoriously alive. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.