25 April 2011

In Fractione Panis

Luke 24, 13-35
It's not clear if these two men on the road to Emmaus were prevented from recognising Jesus because our Lord purposely made Himself appear different or if it is because His glorified Body has vastly different features. But since our Lord is not recognised until the breaking of the bread, it would seem that our Redeemer has something to say to all of us.

‘Jesus Himself, also drawing near, went with them.’ This is not all that different from our own experiences in life. If Christ dwells within us, then He is close to us in every person we meet; but like these two men, we often fail to recognize Him in that person -- and in ourselves.

No one knows for certain who Cleopas is; Saint Jerome thought him to be a citizen of Emmaus who invited Jesus to stay with him at his house. Saint Jerome also testified that during his day there was a church that existed that was originally thought to be the house of Cleopas. Origen thought Cleopas to be Simon Peter. Other speculations include: the brother of Saint Joseph, or Saint Luke the writer of this Gospel account, or the father of Saint James the Less.

Jesus interpreted to them all that was in the Scriptures concerning Him. This must've taken a great deal of time but what a tremendous blessing for these two men to have been given a bible lesson by Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus, however, does say to them beforehand: ‘Oh foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken!’ The lesson for us in that statement is to familiarise ourselves with Sacred Scripture and learn what the prophets say of the Messiah and how those prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament. Understanding the Old Testament really makes the New Testament come to life. Through the comprehension of Scripture we are able to welcome Jesus Christ into our lives based on what is preordained by divine decree and not by something our imaginations conjure up.

With Christ's unrecognisable appearance along with His mentioning of Moses and the prophets, this story sounds similar to the Transfiguration (cf Lc 9, 28-36).

This meal that Jesus shares with them may have been an ordinary meal, but made extraordinary by Jesus; or it is possible that this was a planned Eucharistic celebration by these two disciples of Christ because ‘fractione panis’ or ‘breaking of bread’ as used in this Gospel account, was a popular term for the Eucharist during the apostolic times. What makes that theory questionable, however, is that if these two men did not recognise Jesus as anyone they knew, it's improbable they would have let Him preside over a planned Eucharistic meal. Still, it cannot be ignored that our Lord is demonstrating something that is strikingly similar to the liturgy: First, there is the breaking open of the Scriptures – the Liturgy of the Word – an explanation of the Scriptures follows – the homily – and then the breaking of the bread – the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

This Gospel should be an eye opening experience for Catholic Christians who, sadly, only acknowledge Jesus in their lives for one hour a week. If there is no daily prayer life of any kind, id est, the Divine Office, meditation, reflection, spiritual reading or the daily reading of Scripture, then Jesus will pass by every day and probably will not be recognised. It is only during the breaking of bread at Sunday Mass that He will be recognised, albeit with a struggling faith. Jesus shows up in our lives every day and takes on many different forms: Sometimes He is the cause of our ability to be in the right place at the right time; sometimes He is the delay that takes us off our schedule because being on schedule would place us right in the middle of an unfortunate circumstance; other times He is found in others who lend a helping hand; and at other times He is even that person who plucks your last nerve especially when having a tendency to be overly impatient.

On Sundays we're all standing in line to receive the Eucharist because it is there at Mass that we most recognise our Lord, and it is there that we receive Food for our souls. But Jesus speaks to us daily and He calls us to reflect daily where He works and moves in our lives. If we can identify our Lord under the guise of ordinary bread and wine, then through daily prayer, sacred reading, meditation and other forms of authentic prayer, certainly His Holy Spirit can be detected in other persons, places or things that are a part of our everyday experience, as well as seeing Him within ourselves.