Their hearts were on fire.
It seems like such a small detail in the story, but it tells us everything.
The two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem and everything connected to it: they were walking away from His teaching in the Temple, the miracles in the porticos, the promises, the hope. Disappointment was their road; heavy were their hearts. In fact, like the Bread, they were broken.
In that moment of desolation, they are met by one whom they do not recognize; one who listens to their plight, to their story, to their pain.
This One, having listened, does not simply comfort them in tones of “There, there.” Rather, He tells them to snap out of it—literally calling them fools (how insulted we would be!)—and to ponder some lessons from the past:
did not the prophets, too, endure great suffering? was not the Messiah, too, foretold by them to suffer and to die? but didn’t the prophets also promise the Messiah would rise? did not the Psalms promise eternal life from the Father? was not Elijah carried up to heaven? And still you think that the events in Jerusalem these past days are not part of the plan? Aren’t you judging prematurely? Could it be possible that you are running away from the most glorious moment in human history? Nothing awaits you in Emmaus, but you may find Everything awaiting you in Jerusalem…
They were intrigued.
They were intrigued enough to want to hear more: “Stay with us,” they tell him. They open their doors and welcome this stranger—a stranger in every way: a stranger in his appearance, a stranger in his message. A stranger who does not simply comfort hearts, but who knocks on them.
He knocked on their hearts.
He is knocking on yours in these days.
The disciples opened. It was a grand re-opening! They welcome this stranger and make him a guest. That transition, to turn a stranger into a guest is called hospitality. It comes from the Latin, hospes / hospitalis, and it is the same word from which we derive the English word: hospital.
The hospital is the place where the stranger is welcomed and cared for—for the cure of his body.
Hospitality, on the other hand, cures the heart of the host who makes a stranger into a welcomed guest.
The two disciples on their Road to Emmaus, in their moment of desolation and suffering, stop, and provide “hospital”—if even out of intrigue—to the One who had suffered on the Cross; He, in turn, provides the Divine Physician’s healing to their souls. The Medicine of which is the Eucharist.
Their hearts, once cold, now burn with fire.
(As an aside, these same words are used after the completion of the First Reading. Peter is telling the Jewish people about how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Promises. And it says that, in response, they were “cut to the heart.” A surgeon’s blade. Cut to the heart. And they turn and repent and three thousand began to follow Peter that very day. It was Pentecost: the day of the Holy Spirit’s fire. Do you see? Their hearts now burned).
I am so convicted that these words are meant for us, dear friends. Our Lord Jesus wants to use this time in your life to heal you, to turn you around, to place your feet in the right direction on the right road, and to set your hearts on fire. To have a grand re-opening of your hearts!
He wants to deepen in you a desire that pants for His presence, that longs for it, starves for it—believes it, runs towards it.
This fire can only be given if you open your heart and your home to it. Hospitalis.
Hope and joy will only be afforded you if you give hospitality—hospital—to the unrecognized Jesus: if you allow Him, a stranger, to become a welcomed Guest.
Oh! How foolish we are! How slow to believe…!
Do you not know that there is an Unrecognized Guest at your every meal; there is a Stranger present at your every family gathering; there is a Promise at your rising and at your resting; there is a Messiah knocking, knocking…
So easy to ignore, a knock so easily drowned out by our distractions and by our pride: I am not foolish! I am not like those who were on the Road to Emmaus!
Oh, we all are!
But that’s okay. We all run to Emmaus sometimes. But be like the disciples who, while on that Road, where humbled and yet hospitable.
Hear the words of the First Encyclical from our first Pope, Saint Peter. Hear what he says: “Beloved… conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning…”
That is to say: as you are on this road of life, have a heart that is open at all times to the visit of your Messiah, Jesus Christ. Always have Him in mind. Hope in His Coming. Rejoice in His presence.
Remember, that’s from a man, Peter, who knew how to run away—and he did—but he also learned how to run toward. When he heard the tomb was empty, he ran towards it.
How is our Lord calling you to run towards Him now? Are there places in your daily life where He is knocking, but you are ignoring Him? Are you wasting time and grace that He is giving you? Have you let the desire for Him in your heart grow cold? Are you worried about conversations in our culture and what lies ahead?
Open your heart and your home to Him again. Run with hearts on fire for our Lord! This is where you will find healing. This is the time of hospitalis.