Acts 2:14, 22-33
1 Peter 1:17-21
Today’s Gospel is perhaps one of the most consequential in the New Testament aside from the 6th chapter of John. In this Gospel, we see two disciples of Jesus walking along the road to a town called Emmaus, moving away from Jerusalem. they were not aware that Jesus had risen from the dead, but they knew that Mary Magdalene and her companion had claimed to see Jesus alive. It wasn’t something they were quite yet willing to believe, and alongside them on the road comes Jesus, and the Gospel account tells us that at first they did not recognize Him.
He asks them what they are talking about, and they want to know if he’s the only person visiting Jerusalem that has no idea what’s been going on there over the last week. So they proceeded to explain to Jesus about Himself, and they are going on about what had happened during Holy Week, and Jesus’s response to this was to give them perhaps one of the greatest homilies ever conceived. We get a portion of it, but we know that it moved these men, because when they get to Emmaus to the lodging where they had planned to stay for the night, they invited Jesus to come in with them.
They still hadn’t figured out who this man was, but they knew that there was something different about Him and the message that he was bringing to them, because rather than dreading what had happened over the last week, he had a message of hope, a message that told them they could trust that Jesus was the Messiah because he had to undergo the sufferings that he did. We are told that he opened the Scriptures to them, and that certainly let us in on the reality that we do not get in on all of this teachable moment, but we do get it a few critical bits and pieces.
These disciples invite the man that they do not realize is Jesus in to have supper and to stay with them, they extend hospitality to Him, a man who they believe to be a stranger at that point, so they are behaving in the way that disciples of Christ ideally ought to behave. Jesus doubtless saw the intent of their hearts when he went in with those men to that inn.
When I was growing up, if we had a dinner guest it was the custom in our home to ask the guest to say the Grace over the meal, and this was especially true if we knew that dinner guest to be a believer. It seems that our travelers were following that custom. When did the two disciples figure out that it was Jesus? When, and more importantly how, did Jesus make himself known? They recognized him, we are told, in the breaking of the Bread. This was a Eucharistic moment, and so it was in the Eucharist that these followers of Jesus recognized Him. After recognizing Jesus in the Eucharist, then these two disciples run back to tell the Apostles that they have seen the Lord themselves.
If we look at the whole incident as it is recounted in Scripture, we can even see a very rudimentary sketch, as it were, of the two major parts of the Liturgy. Jesus opens the Scriptures to these men, we are told that their hearts burned within them when he opened the Word of God to them. After doing this, Jesus made himself known to them in a Eucharistic way when they were at table, and so we can see the Liturgy of the Eucharist represented as well.
Their hearts burned within them when Jesus opened the Scriptures to them, and then they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread, and then he vanished from their sight.
Do our hearts burn within us when the Sacred Scriptures are open to us and we hear them? Do we yearn for the Word of God? Do we read Sacred Scriptures regularly, or is the Sunday Lectionary the only time we get a glimpse of it, and then because we hear it from others without having read it ourselves?
When Jesus spoke to the travelers on the road to Emmaus, he was able to open up the Scriptures to them because they were familiar with these passages, as most observant Jews and that day would have been, mostly because they would have heard them repeated in the Temple or the synagogue, and their parents likely would have known these Scriptures by oral tradition, at least. Are we as familiar with it that the Holy Spirit could open up the Scriptures to us and speak to our hearts when we read them, just as Jesus spoke to the hearts of those travelers on the road?
This passage tells us that the disciples on the road to Emmaus recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, they recognized Jesus in the Eucharist. The question that we all must ask ourselves is… Do we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, do we recognize Him in the Eucharist?
If we believe that Jesus Christ is truly, corporeally, and substantially present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, are we preparing ourselves to meet Christ personally when we come to the house of God for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? If we believe that Jesus Christ is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, can we recognize Him here? Can we see him not only in our brothers and sisters, but also in the breaking of the bread as those disciples on the road to Emmaus did?
If we do understand and recognize that Jesus Christ is present in the Most Holy Eucharist- Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – do we grasp that this is the Second Person of the Trinity, that Jesus is God? If we do profess and believe and understand this, and we recognize the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread, as our disciples on the road to Emmaus did, do we treat Jesus as God when we receive Holy Communion? We all should prepare spiritually for Mass so that we can recognize the Lord. Beyond that, however, none of us should rush though the Communion line. If we receive the Lord Jesus in the hand, we should hold our hands completely open until we are presented with the Eucharist. If we receive on the tongue, we should open our mouths completely to allow the Lord to enter in. No one should ever be afraid to take the time necessary to give the Lord His due in the prayer that is the Mass, and whatever we do, unless there is an urgency-such as dealing with babies or very young children, or an emergency- we shouldn’t leave before the proper conclusion of the Mass. If we believe that Jesus is present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, we can certainly give Him an hour of our time. He gave His life for us… It’s the least we can do.