Third Sunday of Easter – Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
Slow of Heart
And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” – Jesus
Our little 10 year old daughter was pacing the floor. I was vegging on the sofa and watching the weather news. The weather reports on Wednesday, April 27, grew bleaker as the skies grew darker.
“Daddy, are we going to be O.K?” she asked.
“We’re fine,” I said with calm assurance.
“Should we go to Mr. Dan’s basement?” Heidi persisted.
I could hear the fear filled tone in her voice. Mr. Dan and his wife Brenda were away. We had access to their house and their basement was waiting for us if we needed it.
In 1991 I became a 9-1-1 Emergency Medical Dispatcher in Dubois County, Indiana. I served in that capacity until 2002. During that time I dispatched before, during, and after many storms in my 10 1/2 years at 9-1-1. So I was somewhat smug in my approach to the storms rushing toward us from the deep south.
The weather maps indicated that the storm was approaching Louisville, TN. That’s where we live. News of the coming storm grew more ominous and the weatherman said something about the folks in our area needed to take cover.
“Why doesn’t somebody listen to me!” Heidi blurted in exasperation. Now I’ve always been somewhat perceptive in hearing that ‘still small voice’ in my heart. Most of my life I’ve tried to be aware of that ‘voice’ and follow the Lord as fully as I knew how to do so. But I was also processing those words of my 10 year old daughter: “Why doesn’t somebody listen to me!” I remember thinking, “Maybe that’s the Lord talking to me.” You know, all that ‘out of the mouth of babes’ stuff. Yet I continued to assure everyone in the house, “We’re fine. We can go to the hallway if it gets bad.”
Then all hail broke loose. Forgive me, but I couldn’t help saying it that way. We gathered in the hall, the power went out, and the sound of a rushing mighty wind descended upon us. And it wasn’t the Holy Ghost either. It was something like I’ve never heard or felt before. Pellets of hail beat against our windows. And the pellets became golf ball size. The house shook. Our cars were pummeled and the yard was covered with a layer of limbs and leaves. I suppose this storm lasted about three to five minutes.
How I wish I had taken my family to Mr. Dan’s basement. How I wish I hadn’t been so slow to understand how real the storms coming toward us were. We are safe and we have a roof over our head, but many, many more lost much. I know we all are praying for those who have lost so much because of these storms and the tornadoes they spawned: family and neighbors dead, homes and houses of worship damaged or destroyed, pets missing, and water and electricity still unavailable in parts across the southeast. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Slow of heart. Sometimes we can get sluggish on how we embrace the mysteries of our faith. That place deep down inside of us, the heart, can loose its grip on the things that matter. Our two friends walking home from Jerusalem to Emmaus are not only slow of heart, they are heavy hearted. They are discussing the events leading up to the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus. And then Jesus draws near them and begins to walk and talk with them.
“What is this that you’re talking about?” Jesus asks. In disbelief, Cleopas asks the Lord if he is the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s been going on there. And Jesus asks, “What things?” They explained how Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet mighty in word and deed and how the chief priests and rulers had him condemned to death and crucified him. This they explained had dashed their hopes about Jesus. They had believed that he might be the one to redeem Israel. Now they didn’t mean redemption like you and I understand that word. They had deliverance from political subjugation in mind.
Moreover, they explained to their mysterious visitor that these things happened three days ago. And now some of the women of their circle of acquaintances are saying that Jesus is alive. The women, they explained, were visited by angels and given the message that Jesus was no longer dead, but was now alive, risen from the dead!
It is now that Jesus begins to warm the sluggish and slow hearts of our friends from Emmaus. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and so enter into his glory?” He asks. And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. But somehow they still did not recognize the voice of him who spoke to them. I’m not sure how it happens, but I know from experience, He can speak to us, and his familiar voice is not recognized.
It was getting late in the day, and they urged Jesus to stay with them. Still not recognizing the Lord, they were intrigued by his mastery of the scriptures. He helped them to get the sense of their meaning, especially their connection to Jesus, causing their hearts to burn within them.
As Jesus reclined at table with them, he reached for the bread. He blessed it and broke it, and then he gave it to them. The eyes of their hearts were no longer drooping and sluggish, but now they recognized their visitor: And he vanished out of their sight.
My dear brothers and sisters, like our friends in Emmaus, we need both the proclamation of the Word and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The Scriptures are food for our faith, for faith comes by hearing the Word of God. The Eucharist is food for our soul, giving us the crucified and Risen Christ.
Why did he vanish from their sight? Jesus wants us to see him by faith, that is, by the eyes of our heart. Jesus wants our hearts, that deep place of the soul, to embrace him and never let him go. There, in that secret place of God, we commune with him. And he who is the bread of life, gives us himself from the altar of Love saying to us, take, eat, this is my body, given for you, and for the life of the world. Amen.