“. . . he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
These words from today’s gospel passage from St. Luke could not be more foundational to our faith and religion as Roman Catholics. These words testify to the earliest origins of the Holy Eucharist that you and I celebrate this very Sunday. And this is one of the reasons that our Roman Catholic Church has retained its centrality in the Eucharist. Our church always wants to be identified with the presence of Christ “in the breaking of the bread.” The disciples with Jesus at Emmaus image the Christian Community in microcosm—His Church—that ultimately understands itself best when gathered at the table of the Lord. This IS where Christ is most easily recognized—when we are “doing this in memory of him.”
Another part of the Emmaus account links solidly with last Sunday’s gospel proclamation which spoke of the encounter between Jesus and Thomas. We are invited with Thomas to be “not unbelieving but believing.” This Sunday Jesus says to the two disciples (who have not yet figured him out), “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!” Make no mistake, this challenge to believe which appears repeatedly throughout the Easter Season is deliberate. It is all follow-up and follow-through to the renewal of our baptismal vows on Easter Sunday.
Renewed faith is what transforms the two bewildered disciples with Jesus on the way to Emmaus. Renewed faith is what transforms the apostles gathered in the upper room with the doors locked—including Thomas, at last—so that they might go forth with courage to proclaim the Good News and to baptize.
But it all funnels into that one solemn, precious and profound act of the breaking of the bread—the Holy Eucharist. It is the glue that binds us as Christians. It is the body and blood of the Lord that saw Christians through persecution after persecution. It is not just accidental that Jesus appears to his apostles in the upper room where they had first celebrated Eucharist at the last supper. This is precisely what they were going to need when faced with the challenges ahead—that this is just what Jesus himself needed to do and did for them (and for us) on the night before he died for us.
It is not even a leap for us, then, to conclude that this is why we gather on the Lord’s Day—the first day of the week—to “get what we need” for the rest of the week. What might be asked of us this week: yet another natural disaster or terrifying attack? yet another global diplomatic or political challenge? budgetary cutbacks that strike fear? life-threatening illness, accident, or loss of a loved one? Or even—winning a lotto or a sweepstakes? We cannot know. But we do know that we will be better prepared to meet any challenge if first we have met him in the breaking of the bread, and if we are not unbelieving, but believing.
Continued Easter Blessings to You!