The Breaking of the Bread
Bishop Peter Muhich
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Third Sunday of Easter, April 23, 2023
They recounted what had taken place on the way, and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
This encounter of Jesus with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, really forms the pattern of our celebration of the Eucharist. We proclaim the Scriptures, and Christ is with us in that proclamation. Then in the Liturgy of the Eucharist he makes himself known — body, blood, soul, and divinity — in the breaking of bread.
Back in 2016, I had the blessing of going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a group, and there were about four, four or five priests on the pilgrimage group and three of us took turns celebrating the Liturgies and preaching. We spent the first five days up in Galilee in a place called the Pilgerhaus. It’s a great place to stay. It’s run by Benedictine monks who have a monastery in a different piece of the property, but it’s kind of like a cross between a guest house in a hotel. It’s really just above the waters of the Sea of Galilee so you can walk down to the beach, and say some prayers there and actually have that experience of being on the Sea of Galilee. Then we spent four days in Jerusalem. On our last day we made our way from Jerusalem toward Telavi where we had to go to the airport, and we made a stop in Emmaus — the place of the encounter of the disciples with Christ and the Gospel today.
There’s a Crusader church there that dates to the 12th century and it’s very well preserved. After our brief visit, we went there and celebrated the Eucharist together. It was my time to be the main celebrant and to preach. It was damp there, and I remember walking into that space and right away, because I have allergies to mold. I go, “Ope there’s mold in here.” You could see it, black on some of the stone walls. But it was my turn to preside and preach so, I got my vestments on and started and progressively, during the Liturgy of the Word for sure, I was getting a little disoriented. I remember giving a homily, but l have no idea really what I said as I became more and more congested. Then during the consecration I remember, maybe it was an attempt to focus on keeping myself on track, but the chalice was a little bit off-centered with a little cross at the base of it and I’m kind of a neat person. I kept moving it but I couldn’t get quite in the center, so it took me about three times. The priests were looking at me like, “what are you doing?” and we all started laughing. So, it was an experience that I’ll always remember in this Crusader church in this place where Jesus was recognized by the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in the breaking of the bread.
This is such a rich and long passage that maybe I’ll simply give some comments on it today in our limited time frame here. First of all, we’re told that this happens on the first day of the week on Easter Sunday. The first day of the week means the day after the Sabbath. In Jewish life, there were the six days of the week marking the days of creation and on the seventh day the people rested because God rested from his work of creation. So, it’s significant that Jesus rose on the first day of the week. He’s remaking creation. He’s starting a new creation.
The two disciples were heading away from Jerusalem; that’s the second comment. They’re going the wrong way. They really should be staying in Jerusalem, but in their dismay and discouragement they are walking away, and notice that Jesus goes to meet them. That’s the third observation. He walks with them even though they’re going the wrong way. Pope Francis is famous for encouraging us to accompany people no matter where they are in their life’s work and their life’s path. Jesus models that to us in the Gospel today with these two disciples. He accompanies them even though they’re going the wrong way.
They don’t recognize him right away. Another comment, Jesus’ risen body is, it’s really him but it’s different now. He’s at a different level of intensity and life, and so they don’t recognize him right away. His glorified life is a new dimension of reality that they’re going to have to get used to.
Another observation, he explains the scriptures to them. It’s important to realize that Jesus is pointing out how all the scriptures really point to him. That’s a really important key in our Catholic way of reading the scriptures. Jesus Christ is the interpretive key of all the scripture.
When they ask him to stay with them, another comment here, he does so. He never says “no” to a request like that. So, he spends time with them.
Another comment, of course they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. Like those two disciples, we too recognize him in this eucharistic action. We’re in the midst of the Eucharistic Revival now, trying to help our people understand Christ’s presence in the Liturgy. We know that he’s with us in proclamation of the scriptures in the homily and the first part of the Mass in a spiritual way. That’s all leading to his real presence in the Eucharist as the bread and wine are transformed into his body and blood, his soul and divinity. This is an awesome mystery for us and from the very beginning we hear that the disciples recognize him in this Eucharistic action which forms the heart of the life of the church
So, as we meditate on this great passage from Saint Luke, this journey to Emmaus by the two disciples, and they discover Jesus is with them on that journey especially in the breaking of the bread, we ask the Lord to give us the eyes of faith. That we might recognize him in any way he’s present, especially in the breaking of bread and the great mystery of the Eucharist. Help us to bring others to recognize his presence there so that he might fill them with the glory of his risen life.