Third Sunday of Easter at Mississippi Abbey

“Were not our hearts burning within us?” Oh, how I wish we could hear our Lord open the Sacred Scriptures for us, as he did for the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. Oh, that our hearts might also be set on fire with love! How can we walk with Jesus and experience his love for us? How can we enter into the mysteries of suffering, death and resurrection with Jesus so that we will not be overwhelmed by life’s great sorrows and tempted to despair?

Have you ever noticed that some of the saddest words in our language begin with the letter D? For example: disappointment, doubt, defeat, discouragement, drudgery, depression, despondency, despair and death. The two disciples who left Jerusalem after the crucifixion were disillusioned and depressed. They had forgotten the prophecies about the Messiah and didn’t understand God’s plan to share in the consequences of our sins, even by dying with us. They left all their hopes behind them. But then Jesus came and walked with them. He retold the stories about God’s love for us. How can we walk with Jesus to overcome our forgetfulness and depression so that the fire of his love will burn in our hearts?

We have many ways to walk with Jesus. His Presence in the Eucharist-oh, how great that is-and the gift of his Spirit in our hearts. We have his words in the Sacred Scriptures that we carry with us in our pockets. But better than that, we have his words memorized so we can often listen to Jesus by letting his words bubble up within our hearts. And we can be in his presence whenever two or three are gathered in his name. Yet, with all these wonderful ways to walk with Jesus we can still be forgetful and distracted in our daily lives. And even worse, our greatest gifts can become the heights from which we suffer more terrible falls because of our own self-centeredness and pride.

Two of the most grievous sins ever committed happened in heavenly places. The first was Lucifer’s sin. Lucifer was the angel of light, perhaps the most beautiful and powerful angel ever created. Lucifer was not tempted by devils for there were none at that time. Lucifer walked with God, enjoying everything, suffering nothing. And yet, his great gifts became his temptation to be adored. The angel of light fell from the heights and became Satan.

The second most grievous sin was that of Adam and Eve. They were in the Garden of Eden, a paradise. They walked with God in the cool of the evening. There was no suffering, no death. They were beautiful, and yet with all these gifts, they wanted more, the knowledge of good and evil. So they believed Satan rather than God, and they fell from the heights of bliss to the depths of misery. The saddest words, the terrible D’s like depression, defeat and death, became their lot in life, and ours.

But these great miseries can be put to good use! Our weaknesses can become our strengths. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me-walk with me-let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Our daily afflictions-disappointments, doubts, disillusionments, defeats, discouragements, drudgeries, depressions, and despondencies-can be reminders throughout the day that drive away our forgetfulness of God. They expose our need for God, reminding us to turn to God for help, both for ourselves and for others. Our afflictions can become prayers, and our prayers joined with the sufferings of Christ, become powerful. Suffering can be wasted. But sufferings turned into prayers by walking with Jesus, carrying our crosses, are never wasted. They always do good. By losing our lives many times a day as we walk with Jesus, we gain the whole world and paradise forever, for ourselves and for others. The terrible D’s give way to the wonderful B’s: baptisms, blessings, bliss, beatitude, being beloved, beauty, benevolence, bountifulness, bravery, and even beer!  Especially Blatz!