Hearts on Fire, Feet on the Move

Today is World Mission Sunday and, in his message to us, Pope Francis has taken as his theme, Hearts on fire, feet on the move — which he said was inspired by the story of Jesus and the disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection.

We are all familiar with this incident at the end of Luke’s Gospel. After the crucifixion of Jesus, two of the disciples of Jesus had turned their backs on Jerusalem and were full of sadness and disappointment because they had such high hopes for Jesus. They did not recognise the stranger that joined them as Jesus and they told him the reason they were sad: ‘We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.’

They are full of disappointment. Yet their meeting with Christ, in the Word and in the breaking of the bread, sparked in them the enthusiastic desire to set out once again and go back to Jerusalem, and proclaim that the Lord had truly risen. The Pope points out that, in this Gospel account, we perceive this change in the disciples through a few revealing images: their hearts burned within them as they heard the Scriptures explained by Jesus, their eyes were opened as they recognised him and, ultimately, their feet set out on the way.

It is easy for us to get disheartened when we hear that we are called to be missionary disciples. We are not sure what is expected of us. We are sometimes more comfortable with quoting the saying attributed to St Francis of Assisi: ‘Preach the gospel with your lives, only use words if necessary.’

Yet Jesus is calling us to go forth. This is what the two disciples did. Renewed and encouraged by the encounter with Jesus at Emmaus, they returned to Jerusalem. An evangelist, Roy Fish, made an interesting observation saying that there is a difference between come and hear and go and tell. The come and hear model is when we say to others, come and hear the Gospel proclaimed in our church. Yet Jesus is inviting us to go and tell. We are like those two disciples. We need to be refreshed by the Word of God, nourished by the Eucharist and so share with others the joy of meeting the Lord.

‘So, let us set out once more, illumined by our encounter with the risen Lord and prompted by his Spirit. Let us set out again with burning hearts, with our eyes open and our feet in motion. Let us set out to make other hearts burn with the Word of God, to open the eyes of others to Jesus in the Eucharist, and to invite everyone to walk together on the path of peace and salvation that God, in Christ, has bestowed upon all humanity.

‘Our Lady of the Way, Mother of Christ’s missionary disciples and Queen of Missions, pray for us!’

[Pope Francis’ Message for World Mission Sunday, 2023]
Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest