Posted by: Fr Chris | April 11, 2023

They recognized him in the breaking of the bread

This is an interesting incident in the gospels on several levels. It shows Christ’s great patience, the centrality of the Eucharist, and also a bit about Jesus’ sense of humor.

For the sense of humor, that we rarely think about, consider this: for a distance of 7 miles, Jesus walks with these two disciples, concealing who he is, when he could have just said, Hey fellows, it’s me. Instead,  he shows up, and deliberately conceals himself. Partly this is so that he can unpack the scriptures to them and slowly reveal the mystery of the suffering servant to them; but partly I do think he rather enjoyed appearing in locked rooms, popping in and out of the lives of the disciples in over a dozen recorded resurrection appearances, and hiding his identity from these two.

His patience with us is enormous: Jesus walks with Cleophas and the other disciple to Emmaus – 7 miles. It would have taken about two and a half hours to make the trip, and he spent the whole time explaining the writings of the prophets and psalms to them, how the coming and suffering of the messiah was predicted over the centuries. By the same token, he walks with us spiritually here today, as we slowly continue to overcome doubts or as we slowly absorb the teachings of the bible and the Church. He is willing to take his time with us and walk with us. Their hearts were on fire – they went from being confused about what had happened on Sunday, to being on fire again as they understood that the messiah had to suffer, had to die, had to be buried, and now is raised again on the third day. They are hungry to learn more, as they insist that he must stay with them.

Seven miles is a long walk – probably it took them two and a half to three hours to reach Emmaus, maybe longer. But they finally arrive, and when does Jesus fully reveal himself to them? It is this marvelous phrase that Luke uses: in the breaking of the bread. He carefully repeats the words and ritual used at the Last Supper, and then they know who he is. His body, soul, humanity, divinity were made present in that breaking of the bread and he revealed himself completely, then disappeared from their sight. But their hearts were still on fire, now invigorated by the reception of that consecrated bread.

The holy Eucharist is made for us, given for us, presented for us, so that our hearts will be on fire. The liturgy prepares us for what is coming, just as Jesus prepared the two disciples with patient instruction. The early Church always saw this moment as a confirmation of the Eucharist, and rejoiced in the gracious love of the Lord for us. This is how the Lord stays with us – we don’t need his physical presence anymore. He rooted the disciples in scripture, he rooted them in love and service, but above all he rooted thm in the breaking of the bread and the awareness that he was with them always.

Let us ask him today, on this day of Emmaus, for the gift of recognizing him in this holy Eucharist. Let us rejoice in the gift of the Most Blessed Sacrament reserved in our churches. Let us above all live with fire in our hearts, fed by this Eucharist and nurtured in the bible and the teachings of the Catholic Church founded by our Lord on the rock of Peter, and be a people rooted in the power of the Risen Christ.

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