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They recognized Him in the Breaking of the Bread


IMG_1770THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

Today’s Gospel begins with this sentence:

“The two disciples recounted what had recounted on the way and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking on the bread.”

And then goes on to relate a story that the Lucan author of an appearance of Jesus to the disciples in the upper room in which he asks for something to eat.  As I told a similar story in last Sunday’s blog, I would like to focus on the wonderful story of Jesus walking with disciples to Emmaus. Here’s the scripture  . . .

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus Himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to Him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And He replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to Him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed Him over to a sentence of death and crucified Him. But we were hoping that He would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find His Body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that He was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the Scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, He gave the impression that He was going on farther. But they urged Him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while He was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, but He vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35)

What a joy and a privilege it would be to share the evening meal with Jesus and the two disciples on the way to Emmaus! How blessed it would be to listen and learn as Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets to interpret every passage of scripture that referred to him. What a gift to watch him take the bread, bless it, break it, distribute it. What a joy to feel our hearts burning within and our eyes open wide to recognize him in the breaking of the bread.

How blessed it would be to listen and learn as Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets to interpret every passage of scripture that referred to him. What a gift to watch him take the bread, bless it, break it, distribute it. What a joy to feel our hearts burning within and our eyes open wide to recognize him in the breaking of the bread.

As we look back over the gospels, particularly that of the Lucan evangelist, we are reminded that Jesus afforded his contemporaries many such nourishing, enlightening and transforming experiences within the context of shared meals. Indeed , throughout the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, meal sharing was a profoundly important event, one that sealed friendships, affirmed marital and familial relationships, solidified political alliances and even confirmed and celebrated one’s faith and worship (as in the Passover meal.)

Israel’s wisdom literature is lavish in its banquet imagery. Recall Wisdom’s invitation as recorded in Proverbs: “Wisdom has built herself a house…she has prepared her table…Come eat of my bread, drink of the wine I have prepared for you.” Gradually our Israelite forbears in the faith began to envision the experience of salvation in terms of a great banquet prepared by God for all of humankind.

Also realized and clearly in evidence at those meals was the universal and welcoming love of God for all, especially sinners. Whereas Jesus’ contemporaries would have shunned table-fellowship with sinners, whom they regarded as off the playing field of salvation, Jesus deliberately associated with outcasts, welcoming them and agreeing to be welcomed by them. Recall Jesus’ willingness to be a guest in the homes of Levi and Zaccheus, both of whom were hated tax collectors. These would never have been welcomed into a respectable Jewish home. Yet it was to these very people who Jesus extended the privilege and blessings of table fellowship.

Then recall that when Jesus hosted the multitudes and fed the 5000 in the deserted place, he did not first determine who was worthy of his food or his presence. He fed them all, first with the food of his teaching and then with bread and fish. Given the enormity of the number who ate to their satisfaction, surely there were some in the crowd who fell short of the law’s standard, who sinned against their neighbors, who were remiss in some aspect of their lives. Nevertheless, without hesitation or discrimination, he welcomed and fed them all.

Now we come to this wonderful story of a beloved resurrection appearance of Jesus. As in most of the resurrection appearances, the risen Jesus was not immediately recognized by his own. Recognition came gradually and only with the insights afforded by faith. This fact enabled the evangelist to pursue a point of apologetics, namely that even though Jesus had been transformed by his resurrection and was not initially recognized, he was, nevertheless, the same Jesus who had walked with them, talked with them, and shared their lives while among them. He was the same Jesus who took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to feed the multitudes.

He was the same Jesus who allowed himself to be taken, nailed on the cross and who gave his life so that sinners may be blessed with forgiveness, freedom and salvation.

When we go to Mass on Sundays we walk a very short distance to Emmaus. We approach the altar; the bread will be broken, the wine will be blessed, and Christ will be present here just as truly as he was at Emmaus. Like those travelers, we come to know Christ in the scriptures, and in the breaking of the bread. We enter into this miracle, not once, but every time we come together to celebrate our faith that Christ died, buried, and risen again. As we receive the body and blood of Christ, once more, an ancient promise is fulfilled: “I am with you!”

Appreciate this great and wonderful experience, dear friends, that Jesus shares with us in his person even now two thousand years after the Last (or the First) Supper.

What a beautiful experience it is to share in the breaking of the bread – whether there is a glorious celebration with timpani and trumpets or just one other person present.

Yes appreciate this great and wonderful gift. Don’t ever take it for granted.

And before you go, here’s a lovely hymn, Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence with a slide show. Click Here.

Here are today’s readings: Click here.

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