Perhaps there is better way to explain the experience the focolarine had at the beginning – living, as they soon learnt to say, ‘with Jesus in their midst’ – than the words of His disciples after they had met the Risen Lord at Emmaus: “Didn’t our hearts burn within in us, when he talked with as we walked along the road?” (Lk 24,32). Jesus is always Jesus, and we know from Scripture that when He is present, even only spiritually, He is still Jesus and, Christ’s love burns within our hearts: life. When He is recognised we are moved to say: “Stay with us Lord, evening falls” (Lk 24,29).
The experience of the disciples at Emmaus is essential for all those involved in the spirituality of unity. Nothing has value within the Movement if the promised presence of Jesus in their midst is not constantly sought – “Where two or three are united in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18,20), this presence enlivens, widens horizons, consoles and draws charity and truth.
Chiara wrote: ‘Having put mutual love into action, we felt a new certainty in our life, greater determination, a fullness of life. How come? It was immediately obvious: through this love we had fulfilled the words of Jesus: “Where two or three are united in my name (that is, in my love) there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18,20). Jesus, silently, came into our group as our invisible brother. So we then had the fount of love and light present among us. We didn’t want to lose Him again. We understood better what His presence was when, due to our shortcomings, His presence faded.
“It’s not that in those moments we tried return to the world we had left; the presence of “Jesus in our midst” was too strong, for us to be attracted to the vanities of the world, the divine presence had lessened them. Rather, as a person who is shipwrecked grabs onto anything in order to save himself, so we too tried through whatever way the Gospel suggested, to repair the unity that had been broken. And as two pieces of wood crossed over one another consume one another in the flames, so, if we wanted to always live with Jesus present in our midst, we needed to live virtues in each present moment (patience, prudence, meekness, poverty, purity..) they are necessary so that spiritual unity with others will not lessen. We understood that Jesus in our midst is not gained once and for all, because Jesus is life, is dynamic (…).
“Where two or more”: these divine and mysterious words, very often, when being acted on, appear wonderful. Where two or more… and Jesus doesn’t specify who. He leaves it anonymous. Where two or more … regardless of who they are: two or three repentant sinners who meet in His name; two or more young people as we were; two: an old person and a child. Where two or more… In living those words, we have seen barriers fall on every front. Where two or more… people of different countries: the barrier of nationalism fell. Where two or more… of different racial backgrounds: the barrier of racism fell. Where two or more… also between people who have been opposites through culture, social background, age… All could be – had to be – united in the name of Christ (…).
“The presence of Jesus in our midst was a formidable experience. His presence was abundant reward for every sacrifice made, justified every step taken in this journey, closer to Him and for Him, gave sense to things, circumstances, comforted sufferings, tempered excessive joy. And whoever among us, without cynicism and reasoning, believed in His words with the enchantment of a child and put them into practice, enjoyed this foretaste of heaven, which is the kingdom of God in the midst of people united in His name”.