May 10, 2017: Known in the Breaking of Bread

~by Louis Templeman

Given the choice which would you prefer? Walking with the resurrected Christ and hearing his discourse on Old Testament messianic prophesy? Or, kneeling at an altar where the Eucharist is being celebrated?

Let’s be honest. Our human senses have a great appetite for God’s display of wonder. We would all choose the walk with the risen Christ. The drama and experience would be thrilling.

Nevertheless, it is often the sorrowful and mundane that the Holy Spirit choses for his expression. Sometimes, God will redirect his people with an awesome touch on our senses in order to rivet our attention on true spiritual values. Unfortunately, these spiritual values often appear dull. We prefer the dramatic; which is more entertaining.

In Luke 24, there is a story of two sad, dejected disciples leaving Jerusalem, after the crucifixion of Christ, for their home in Emmaus. Disappointment paved their path home. Their Lord was dead. It was the third day since he’d suffered capital punishment. They had thrown all their marbles into one bag. They lost. Now they had nothing. The man they loved, and were devoted to, lay in a cold borrowed grave.

If they had once had money it was gone, used in the expenses of traveling about preaching with the master. Family members who complained they were wasting their lives following a Galilean, of all things, around the country, now would say, “I told you so.” They suffered alienation from their families and society for Christ. They crawled out on a limb to be with Jesus. The limb was severed. All they invested fell to nothing. Together, companions in sorrow, they turned their backs on Jerusalem. And, went where? No place to go but home. As they walked, punctuating the silence with doubt, sadness, regret and second-guessing, a stranger approached. They did not recognize him as Jesus. He asked them why they were so sad? They must have appeared totally dejected.

The totality of sorrow was such that they were annoyed that anyone could be unaware of recent events surrounding the arrest and execution of Jesus. The two referred to Jesus as a “prophet mighty in deed and word before God and the people.” Had the narrative stopped there I would have personally given that answer high marks. However, Jesus did not.

The stranger rebuked them soundly for their unbelief and began to explain to them from scripture that Christ was indeed more than a prophet. He was the messiah, God in the flesh. He said to them (Luke 24: 26, NAB):

“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?” And, beginning at Moses and all the prophets he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

One of the scripture verses he could have referred to was Isaiah 30: 20,21:

The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself but with your eyes you shall see your teacher, while from behind a voice shall sound in your ears: This is the way walk in it, when you would turn to the right or to the left.

Jesus used scripture to teach and to guide. But, at that time he did not use scripture to reveal himself. When the disciples reached their house the stranger made like he would travel on but they entreated him to spend the night so he entered the house to eat the evening meal with them.

It was not until the stranger took the lead at dinner, and broke the bread that they recognized him. To them – the sad pair – it was just a meal. But, to the stranger it was the first post-resurrection Eucharist. I imagine he held a broken piece of bread in each hand raised upwards, which fell from his grip as he disappeared and each piece landed before each amazed soul. Jesus vanished but the bread remained.

Jesus was not revealed in the theophany (the shared vision) or in the scripture. Luke 24: 35 says: “… he was known in the breaking of the bread …”.

The theophany was an amazing experience, a precious memory told and retold by the two disciples and relived often in their daydreams and prayers. The experience rescued them from their despondency. The scripture lesson strengthened and enlightened them and birthed within them a liveliness that lifted the cloud of despondency and so encouraged them to invite the stranger in for their hospitality.

However, it was not in the revelation of scripture that Christ became known to them. It was not this discourse and fellowship with the divine stranger that Christ became real, touchable to them. It was in the breaking of bread that Jesus was made real to them.

And, so it is. Christ in the Eucharist is the Christ always present among believers. Christ could walk and talk with us anytime he wants. What he wants is to be with us in the breaking of bread. It is the seal of our covenant with God. It is the focus of our adoration and worship. It’s the Lord’s way of meeting with us. It is his design. In fact, the meal is himself.

The pair from Emmaus experienced the theophany, the scripture lesson and the Eucharist. The Eucharist was the chief point of this divine lesson from Jesus. And, we have the chief thing they were given. At every mass we can know him in the breaking of bread. His real presence.

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Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

CLICK HERE to visit Louis’ Catholic Journeyman Archive

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