“You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire”
Today’s account of Christ’s Resurrection is, for me at least, the one with the most rewarding spiritual depth. The iconic “Road To Emmaus” – where unwitting disciples have a connective walk with their risen messiah before realizing his presence in the “breaking of the bread” – gives us our mass experience in microcosm.
It begins with some disciples, probably distressed and dejected after the events that led to their hero’s execution, leaving town. On their way they have a connective trip with a stranger, one anchored by a thought-provoking discussion and inclusive receptiveness. It’s only after their mystical experience sharing a meal that they realize that the traveler was the risen Christ – was literally God before them.
How often in our lives do we not realize a moment of grace until after the fact? How many times has God been hiding in plain sight, waiting for us to recognize the flash of divinity happening right in front of us? Sunday mass gives us an experience to reflect on those moments, to find the God that’s always a part of our lives.
In the story’s beautiful climax, Jesus and his glory are finally made visible in the beautiful and challenging sacrament we know as Communion.
After so many treks to church, it can be easy to become desensitized to the true beauty in our Eucharistic Liturgy. This is God, alive in all its incarnate grace, right before me… and where am I? Usually zoning out, day-dreaming of the next Avengers movie or the Jets new uniforms. Really tuning into the magnitude of our celebration, finding wonder and awe in the presence of God, is a spiritual exercise worth practicing – but it’s also only the first step.
“Were not our hearts burning?” the disciples ask at the close of the story, realizing how this divine experience has changed them. They are no longer on the road away from the tragedies and troubles of Jerusalem but returning to be in relationship with the other disciples.
Is there a better analogy for the power of the mass? That once we experience this mystical union with God’s grace in the breaking of the bread, we have an unstoppable drive, a divine call, to be in that same loving communion with those around us. That mass is the fuel that gives us the courage and compassion to practice solidarity with all those around us, taking our burning hearts and joining them with others to be a Light of the World.
It’s the manifestation of Jesus’ prayer “that they may all be one.” Or that great Peter Gabriel lyric: “You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire.”
So in this Easter season still in its infancy, I invite you to join me in challenging yourself to really embrace the mass and its power; to put all your heart into this celebration, this communion, this call to action, and allow it to be set aflame. -Joe McQuarrie