The Breaking of the Bread

Call to mind those pictures we saw on TV this past week of the devastation that took place in the State of Arkansas and other Southern States as over 300 tornadoes swept over the land. We saw bewildered men and women picking over what was left of their homes, trying to find something of value, something to help them remember the past. Looking at the devastation they must have wondered ’how can we start over, where do we begin?’

These two men heading for their home in Emmaus must have felt pretty much the same. Of course they had a home to go to but the events that happened in Jerusalem over the past couple of days had all the destructive power of a tornado to destroy all their hopes and dreams. They saw Jesus tried and convicted to suffer a humiliating death. The powers that be were out to destroy Him and His reputation as a teacher and leader despite the fact that he healed the sick, cleansed lepers and even raised the dead. These two good men, along with hundreds of others had hoped Jesus of Nazareth would be the one who would redeem Israel but now they had little hope of that happening. Confused and dejected they headed home. They were mystified by all this talk about angels and an empty tomb.

They shared all this with this stranger who joined them on the road. This stranger tries to explain the scriptures to them, beginning with Moses that all this was foretold and it was through suffering the Christ would come to glory. How much of this they took in at the time we don’t really know.

They reach their home and the stranger is about to keep on going. They insist he stay for a meal and even stay over night rather than be on the road in the dark. He accepts their hospitality. At the meal this stranger takes bread, breaks it and offers it to his hosts. In that simple, ordinary act common of every meal they recognize this stranger as Jesus. As they would tell the Apostles, ‘we recognized him in the breaking of the bread.’

So often we see this as meaning the Eucharist – he took bread, broke it and gave to them saying ‘take and eat this is my body.’ But breaking bread was a common expression of sharing a meal, an act of hospitality. These good, welcoming people recognized Christ in and through their hospitality. Their hospitality calls to mind the words of Jesus; I was hungry and you gave me food, a stranger and you welcomed me, as often as you did this to the least you did it to me.’

This resurrection gospel has something to say to us Canadians. There is a growing xenophobia in Canada and during the last election campaign a lot was said about human smuggling and need to watch who is allowed into the country. That human smuggling happens is a fact. But that fact should not point us in the direction of making it more difficult to come to Canada. If we are not members of the First Nations then we are all boat people, we are all refugees. Our families came here looking for a better life, a freer life, a life of opportunities denied them in their own land. We held our heads high in 1958 when we welcomed people from Hungry and in the 60’s when we opened our homes and land to the Vietnamese. Like those two who walked home to Emmaus we Canadians will come to know Jesus in our generous act of hospitality as we open our doors, welcome into our home and break bread with the stranger, no matter his nationality, no matter what his faith.

May we blessed to see beyond political rhetoric and live the challenge of Jesus – I was a stranger and you made me welcome, as often as you did this to one of these the least of mine, you did it to me. May we come to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread.