May 4, 2014
EASTER III (A)
Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us…? – Luke 24: 32
A certain man bought a valuable painting entitled, “The Burning Ship.” It was a large ocean liner engulfed in flames. The most remarkable thing about it was the artist’s rendering of the fire. It looked so real it seemed the painting was ablaze. One day, while looking at it, the owner became more & more intrigued by the vivid portrayal of the fire. Suddenly, a fly began buzzing around & then came to rest in the center of the flames. For a brief moment, he fully expected to see the fly consumed by the fire. But it flew away, unharmed. It was never at risk because the flames were not real.
Jesus came to set the world on fire. “I have come to light a fire on the earth,” He said. Then He added, “How I wish the blaze was ignited” (Luke 12: 49). On the cross, Jesus translated that wish into a reality. Having put Himself at risk, He ignited the blaze & was consumed by it in His supreme act of love.
We come buzzing around on Sunday & we come to rest in our seats, saying in effect, “How we wish the blaze were ignited!” But unless we are willing to put ourselves at risk & translate that wish into reality, we are like the fly who fearlessly alights on the lifeless flames but instinctively avoids the real thing.
Mere wishing will not make it so. Mere wishing will only make us “almost” Christians. Mere wishing only serves to feed our self-satisfaction as we say each night, “I was almost yours today, Lord!” So if we wish long enough & strong enough, we’ll come to know nothing more than how skilful we can become avoiding the risk of being consumed by the spirit of love.
We play the game of being “almost” disciples. We play the game as though Jesus were almost risen, as though He werealmost in our midst, as though He were commanding us to almost love one another. The name of the game is “Don’t take any risks!”
After their encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, those first disciples’ lives were at risk. Their hearts burning within them, they “went forth & preached everywhere,” & “the Lord continued to work with them throughout & confirm the message through the signs which accompanied them” (Mark 16: 20).
In other words, they were not merely wishful thinkers, nor merely almost Christians. They were not playing it safe. They were not merely Jesus’ torchbearers: they were the torches.
Some years ago, a study conducted at Harvard University revealed the existence of over 700,000 forms of non-verbal communication – more than 700,000 ways to communicate without words. This should be a constant reminder to us that, like those first disciples, we are not merely the message bearers: we are the message. In the words of an old saying, “the only Gospel some people will ever read is you!” AMEN!