The Acts of the Apostles describe the life of the early Christians in simple terms, “they devoted themselves to teachings of the Apostles and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to prayers.
The term ‘breaking of the bread’ refers to the celebration of the Eucharist – not as we do it today but in the context of a meal, a simple imitation of what Jesus did at his last meal with his friends.
I don’t think the term, ‘the breaking of the bread’ used in today’s gospel refers to the Eucharist. Look at the situation. Jesus joins these two men as they were walking home to Emmaus. They are depressed. Their dreams are shattered. Their lives have fallen apart. They could have been among the ones who left everything to follow Jesus, now they are coming home empty handed. Jesus was dead, executed. They can’t believe what happened in the past few days. They kept rehashing all those terrible events. This stranger joins on the road and asks, ‘what’s up?’ What do you mean, what’s up? Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem? Then there is this long conversation with this stranger.
When they reach their home Jesus keeps on walking. No, stay with us, its getting late, you shouldn’t be on the road after dark. We’ll put you up for the night. In this act of hospitality Jesus makes Himself known to them. In the breading of the bread, in sharing the evening meal with this stranger they are blessed to see Jesus, the risen one.
I often ask the children in school, what you have to do if you want to see Jesus? They know the answer. I look at the person next to me. We meet Jesus in and through one another. We love and serve Jesus in and through one another. “As often as you did these things to one of these, the least of these brothers or sisters on mine, you did it to me.” St. John asks the probing questions, “how can you say you love God, Whom you’ve never see when you do not love your neighbour whom you see?”
It is in welcoming the stranger, reaching out to another in need, giving a helping hand, dropping in for a visit, taking the time to be there for another person, family, friend or stranger we meet Jesus. In such ‘breaking of the bread’ we are blessed.
But with this image “the breaking of the bread” in mind we must know that we are challenged to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread at this Eucharist. As He told us, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of you.” Christ is truly present in the tabernacle – Christ is truly present in the scriptures we’ve just heard. Christ is present on the altar and Christ is present in this gathering of you good people.
I want to share with you these powerful words I recently read as regards the words, ‘the breaking of the bread’.
Jesus is buried three times in His life. The first was in the womb of His mother. The second was in the tomb after His death. The third is His being buried in the “Breaking of the Bread” after His Resurrection. All three burials were meant for His coming to His three ways of being a “Real Presence” within our human lives. The “womb”, the “Tomb”, and our “bodies” are blest by His presence. All three are delivery places. He was born, lived, died, was buried and rose that His body might give life and vision to this world. The womb and tomb could not hold Him. We, who do hold Him, do not hold Him back, but hold Him forth, hold Him sacredly toward His sisters and brothers. We hold Him and yet He too holds us together and with a sense of having to do something good. We hold Him so that others may behold Him in how we live as His Body. Our challenge at every Eucharist is to recognize Jesus in this breaking of the bread.”
As we recognize Jesus in this breaking of the bread, this Eucharist may we be blessed to recognize Him too in every person we meet in the different circumstances of our lives. We do the best when we live this Mass outside these walls, in the lives we live, the service we give, the work we do and the prayers we pray, outside these walls.