Luke 24: 13-35
The disciples walking on the way to Emmaus in the late afternoon of Easter Sunday did not realize that they were speaking in person with Jesus. The fact that his appearance was different to them is clear; after all, they would hardly fail to recognize such a personal friend and guide, yet their delayed recognition goes beyond visual images and embraces a broader human tendency to fail to see the things that ought to be the clearest to us. They finally recognize him when he takes bread and breaks it to share with them, representing the Eucharist which he had previously shared with his apostles on the evening of Holy Thursday, immediately preceding his passion and death.
The breaking of the Eucharistic bread is what connects the disciples’ experience of Jesus after the resurrection to what they knew of him before his death—it is the source and the focus of their faith in this defining event of Jesus’ life, revolving around the resurrection as the hinge of their belief. As such, the Eucharist and the resurrection are inseparable, each one giving meaning to and confirming the other in a beautiful exchange of grace.
In the first reading for mass this day, from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter urges the crowds to believe in Jesus, now risen to new life, noting how God has exalted Jesus far above David through the power of the resurrection. Peter understands that his almost entirely Jewish audience gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost will esteem David and his place in their religious piety. He appeals to Isaiah, Joel, and the Psalms in order to exhort them to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and thus exalted him as the true Messiah and superior of David—who remained in his tomb.
During the Eucharistic Prayer the entire assembly at mass rejoices in singing the memorial acclamation: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory”, thus affirming our faith in the bond between the resurrection and the Eucharist and acclaiming Jesus as the true Son of David.
The second reading from the First Letter of Peter goes beyond initial belief in the resurrection and describes the way in which Christians ought to respond to the resurrection in terms of their way of life. “You were ransomed… with the precious blood of Christ” we are reminded, and we therefore have a responsibility to live in a manner worthy of the one who redeemed us at so great a cost. When we partake of the broken bread at mass we must live from that moment on in imitation of the selfless love of Jesus so that we may also share in his resurrection when he comes again in glory.
Finally the gospel account of Jesus accompanying the disciples on their way to Emmaus confronts us with the resurrection in terms of recognizing the Risen One in the breaking of the bread in our midst, reminding us that we do not always see what is obvious. When we gather this third Sunday of Easter to celebrate together the Eucharist of the Lord, we should remember that through this sacramental action of the Christian community Christ becomes present in our midst and “stays with us”. If we trust in God who raised Jesus from the dead, and live as though we truly believe what we profess in the creed, we will need no longer ask each other “Were not our hearts burning within us?”, but will be able to proclaim, “The Lord has truly been raised…and has been made known to us in the breaking of the bread”.
Fr. Edward Mazich, O.S.B.