“Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip? Yo –”
That’s not Scripture – it’s actually the rapper, Eminem from “8-Mile.” I could rap most of that song, actually, but in public I’m afraid I’d mess it up and then he’d come and beat me up. So, I’ll just quote what many of our young people would say about taking opportunities that are offered to us: “YOLO!”
That’s our new series of reflections for our Masses these coming weekends. “YOLO” is an acronym and stands for “You Only Live Once.” Many times, when they have done something particularly outrageous or even daring and dangerous, a daredevil will cry out, “YOLO!” And it’s true – even if shaving your head for prom or barreling over Niagara Falls might be ill-advised.
However, for us Christians, “YOLO” takes on a new and wonderful meaning. While it is still true that we only live once, that “once” is forever for those reborn in the Baptism of Jesus Christ. We only live once, but it’s forever! So, our reflection is this: what do we do with this one Eternal Life that we are given? How do we make the most of it?
In today’s gospel, we encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus. He is risen from the dead, glorified, but totally unrecognized by the disciples, who are walking along, dejected, heads down, arguing with one another about how wrong they may have been about their Master. What fun Jesus seems to have with them as He asks them questions that He already knows answers to! “What are you discuss as you walk along?” … “What sort of things?” …
In the midst of their encounter, we learn later, as Jesus talks, their hearts were burning within them. Jesus chastises them for their lack of faith and He even breaks open the Scriptures and the Bread for them. And it is then, when He has shared Himself once more, that they finally get it.
Jesus is frustrated with their lack of understanding, but what is it that leads them there? They are caught up in what they wanted – what they had hoped – wrapped up in themselves, rather than focusing on the presence of God in their midst and listening to Christ. Finally, Jesus reveals to them that Eternal Life is real – that the Resurrection is real! Once they realize that, He vanishes, and they stop sulking and rush back to the Apostles to share this great news.
Friends, if we only live once, how could we waste that time sulking and looking backward in regret? Our experience here is the same as those disciples on the road to Emmaus. We come here, perhaps with the heaviness of a week of hardship, with the doubt of suffering, or with the uncertainty of faith that are common to our human experience. However, here, Jesus comes among us and shares the Scriptures and breaks the Bread, opening our eyes to see the beauty of what our faith gives us: Eternal Life.
Each of us has received this gift through Baptism, and since that moment when we were joined to Christ through those waters, we have been living our Eternal Life. Yes, you only live once, but for those living this Eternal Life with faith and joy, once is enough!
Jesus calls us, as He did those disciples, to let go of our regrets; let go of disillusion; let go of disappointment that comes from limiting God by our own plans and simple minds. Lose yourself in the fact that we will live forever – and this life can only be lived forward. Jesus gives us this chance to embrace life in its fullest as members of His Body, recognizing that life that He has given.
It had taken all day for those disciples to mope their way to Emmaus. However, once they were snapped out of their funk by the Risen Lord, they ran back to Jerusalem to share that news with the rest of the Church. You are sent to share the news with others. Run if you have to. If folks ask why you are running, you have the perfect response:
“YOLO! You only live once!”
And for us, once is enough!