FR. MIKE’S HOMILY FOR WEDNESDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER
THEME: THE BREAKING OF BREAD
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
HOMILY: Lk 24:13-35
Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
The story about the two disciples on the road towards Emmaus is not just another engaging story in the Gospel. Replete with symbolisms, it is also a parable in action.
We are in this world, but we are not of this world. We don’t belong here. As God’s children, our true home is heaven. Here on earth, we are just pilgrims on our journey back to our heavenly homeland. This is now illustrated in the image of the two disciples walking on the road.
Jerusalem has always been traditionally referred to as the image of God’s kingdom. On the other hand, Emmaus is the world. The disciples leaving Jerusalem and going towards the direction of Emmaus represents the people who turn away from God in their quest for worldly happiness and comfort. There is sadness and gloom in their countenance, weariness and fatigue in their feet. This is precisely the condition of those who put all their attention and trust in the ephemeral things of the world.
But along the road, Jesus comes and joins the disciples. He never leaves them alone in this journey, true to His promise that “I am with you always until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
Unfortunately, the disciples fail to recognize Him. This is what always happens when people are deeply immersed in their egoistic and worldly ways and ambitions. As the Lord said, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:21).
It does not come as a surprise, then, that even though Jesus was already talking to them, still they do not recognize Him. Yet, at this point their hearts are “burning inside”. The word of God is already working in their hearts. “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
This explains why, “as they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over’” (Lk 24:28-29). They simply could not resist the power of God’s word, working inside their very being. Such is what God Himself declares through the prophet Isaiah: “Yet just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it” (Is 55:10-11).
While they were seated at table, “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.” These are the same actions Jesus did at the last Supper when He instituted the Eucharist, the sacrament of His Body and Blood. It can be noted that the word “Eucharist” is not found in the Bible. Instead, the term used in reference to the eucharistic celebration is “breaking of bread” as found in the Acts of the Apostles. Hence, at the “breaking of bread” – at the Eucharist – the two disciples recognized the Lord: “With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
Clearly, then, this was the first Holy Mass after the Lord’s Death and Resurrection. But immediately, “he vanished from their sight” – not because He was unreal, but in order to send the message that they have to go back to Jerusalem. The Eucharist is not meant to be celebrated outside and away from the community of believers – for Jesus, the Head, cannot be without His Body, the Church. He declares: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).
In summary, it can be said that this story about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is a parable on the Holy Mass. The first part is the Liturgy of the Word, where God talks to us and our hearts ought to burn with love and zeal. The second part is the Liturgy of the Eucharist where we come to personally recognize the Lord Jesus and be intimately united with Him in Holy Communion. And this becomes truly meaningful and fruitful when the entire community of believers comes together to celebrate in faith and love.
Every time we come to Mass, this story of the two disciples should always be at the back of our minds. May our hearts burn with love as we listen to His words, and may we fully recognize Him in the ‘breaking of the bread.’
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches