Life is hard without Jesus. It is hard with him too but he gives it meaning. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were without Jesus. Their lives were shattered and they had lost all hope. The dream was over and they were on their way to try and build a new life. There have been times when each of us has shared their experience.
Then Jesus approached and began to walk along with them. We know that during most of this seven-mile walk with Jesus, the two disciples failed to recognize the true identity of their travel companion. It was not until they were seated at table with him – and Jesus broke and shared bread with them – that their eyes were finally opened.
What was it about such a simple act that enabled them to recognize Jesus? Undoubtedly, it reminded them of that powerful moment that directly preceded Christ’s betrayal, passion and death: The Last Supper. In addition, it may have reminded them of countless experiences of table fellowship with Jesus and the other disciples: simple, personal and intimate opportunities to understand more about Jesus’ – and their own – identity. The ordinary – but profound – act of breaking and sharing bread had become for them a gateway to experiencing the divine precisely in the midst of everyday, human events. On an even broader scale, it may have reminded them of the experience of communion and community that they experienced with Jesus and their fellow travelers throughout all the ups, downs and in-betweens of living, learning and loving together.
Do you meet Jesus in the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist? St. Francis de Sales, in his book, On the Preacher and Preaching, wrote: “It is certain that since our Lord is really within us, he gives us brightness, for he is the light. After the disciples at Emmaus had communicated, ‘their eyes were opened.'” (Page 26) In our celebration – and reception – of community, gathered around the table of the Lord, we are challenged to see both how Christ is present in the Eucharist and also how Christ is present in us.
Still, we need to expand our notion of communion in order to more deeply understand the meaning of this scene in the Gospel. Jesus is especially present whenever there is table fellowship; Jesus is embodied whenever people allow themselves to be broken and shared with – and for – others. Jesus is seen whenever people focus more on what brings them together and less upon those things that would drive them apart.
When we break bread with others – literally, or figuratively – the ongoing power and promise of the risen Christ is made manifest to us. When we choose to break ourselves open to nourish and feed others, we embody in our own day and age something of the same Jesus who companioned these two disciples so long ago.
The question is: do we recognize Jesus in our attempts to feed others? Do we recognize Jesus when others to do the same for us?