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Father Muench Says...

Recognition in the breaking of bread

April 6, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

My favorite Easter story is the Emmaus story from the Gospel of St. Luke. I suspect you remember it. 
This year, this Gospel reading is not read as the Gospel at any of the Sundays of the Easter season. Rather, it is the gospel for the Wednesday Mass during Easter week. 

Today I would like to take this opportunity to look over this story with you.

Two of Jesus’ disciples are walking home from Jerusalem to their home town of Emmaus, a short distance from Jerusalem.  The story is set a few days after the crucifixion of Jesus.

As they were walking along, Jesus - the resurrected Jesus - approached them.  The story tells us that they did not recognize Jesus but Jesus recognizes their sadness.  They make it clear that they are disciples of Jesus and tell him of their great hopes for Jesus. For them he was a great prophet, a prophet powerful in the eyes of God.  Now they were broken hearted because of his condemnation and crucifixion.

The Gospel story tells us that Jesus offered his compassion and began to teach these two disciples.  He begins by pointing out to them that the coming Messiah would have to suffer, even die.  Then he opens the Scriptures for them.  We are told in the story that he then takes them back to Moses and interprets for them every passage in the Hebrew Scriptures that refer to him.

When they come to Emmaus, the two disciples invite Jesus to stay awhile with them.  Then we are told that they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

I want you to recognize in this story a pattern, a pattern exactly like the liturgy of our Mass. 

Our Mass begins with the Liturgy of the Word, the Scriptures are read to us and then we listen to a homily as the priest helps us to understand the message of the Scriptures. 

I truly enjoy the image of Jesus teaching Scripture to the two disciples in the story on the road to Emmaus.  Can you imagine that moment?

I have had several opportunities to be taught by several outstanding Scriptures scholars and I continue to be intrigued by that inspiring moment that Jesus taught those disciples “every passage that applied to him..” However, I am certain that when we read the Scriptures, especially at Mass, that Jesus is truly with us and helping us understand.

I believe with a deep faith that Jesus comes to us and enters our lives yet, we do not recognize him, just as those two disciples did not recognize him.  Often, we do not realize that Jesus was present to us until later.  We come to realize that Jesus had truly touched our lives. 

The two disciples recognize Jesus “in the breaking of the bread.”  We immediately think of the Blessed Eucharist.  Each time we participate in the Eucharist, each time we receive Holy Communion, with God’s grace, we should recognize the presence of the Lord.  In the story, when the two disciples recognize Jesus, they found new dedication and excitement in their faith in the Lord.  The faith overflowed.  They rushed back to Jerusalem immediately to tell the apostles that they had seen and talked with the Lord.  When the Eucharist is the center of our spirituality, when we walk close with the Lord through our life, we will find new joy and happiness with the Lord.

I want to add one more interesting surprise for me.  Years ago, I was involved in a program that interestingly was called Emmaus.  I was asked to go with another priest to Ireland to explain the program to some priests of a diocese.  We visited the Diocese of Longford where the Cathedral Church was dedicated to St. Mel.

Over one of the side altars is a painting of the Emmaus story. The Lord is sitting at a table with the two disciples – and the two disciples are a man and a woman, probably a married couple.

This is such a wonderful story – with so many lessons – so many more lessons. 

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