“Were not our hearts on fire within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” ( Luke 24:13-35). The story of the two disciples returning to Emmaus, disillusioned and discouraged by the terrible execution of Jesus whom they thought was the Messiah sent to free Israel, is the story of each one of us. We too often find ourselves defeated by life’s difficulties and questioning whether God cares or even exists.
In 1946 a Viennese psychiatrist by the name of Viktor Frankl wrote a little book called Man’s Search for Meaning. By the time of his death in 1997, the book had sold over 10 million copies in 24 languages and was considered one of the ten most influential books ever published in the USA. Frankl found himself in a Nazi concentration camp and observed that some prisoners withered away and died quickly whereas others carried on with relative strength. By interviews and reflection, it became clear to him that the people who had the best chance of survival were whose who had a meaning, a purpose and a hope in their life. Perhaps it was a burning desire to rejoin their family, or to finish a science project started, or to persevere in the strength of their religious faith. From that, Frankl developed a school of psychotherapy called Logotherapy, based on the Greek word logos, which signifies word or meaning. It is the same word used by the New Testament to name the Word of God, the second Person of the Divine Trinity, who became man for us in the womb of Mary. “And the Word became flesh…” (Jo 1:14).
In the Emmaus account in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus, the true Word of God, enlightens his disheartened followers by opening the Scriptures to them and showing them how his sacrificial death-victory were prophesied for hundreds of years in the writings of Moses and the prophets. The key phrase is, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” The Cross is the key to understanding life. Jesus himself pondered and prayed over the scriptural Word of God and found His vocation described in such passages as Deut 18:18 (he will be another Moses), Psalm 22 and Is 53 (by his sufferings and death we will be healed) or Psalm 2 (You are My son; you shall rule the nations). Just as Jesus learns his identity and mission from praying over the Word of Scripture, so each of us must make a practice of reading and praying over the Scriptures in order to find God’s meaning for what is happening in our lives. As with the disciples whom Jesus instructs “along the way,” our hearts too will be set on fire with understanding , hope and enthusiasm when we see God’s secret and unexpected ways for blessing and leading us. And we too will run to tell others of our discovery just as the two disciples ran back to Jerusalem to share their new faith with the rest of the Church.
Another way to do this easily is to pray the Scriptures with Mary. Just to pray the Mysteries of the Rosary is to see how God led her from one challenge to another, one surrender to another, all the way to sharing her Son’s bitter death and His glorious resurrection and outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. As we pray these Mysteries, Jesus the Word also teaches us and sets our hearts on fire, rejoicing to share His cross and resurrection in the concrete challenges and details of our own life.