THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD
(A biblical reflection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR A], 30 April 2017)
Gospel Reading: Luke 24:13-35
First Reading: Acts 2:14,22-33; Psalms: Psalm 16:1-2,7-11; Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-21
The Scripture Text
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, name Cleopas, answered Him, “Are You the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, ‘Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we had hoped that He was the One to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find His body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So He went in to stay with them. When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35 RSV)
Two of Jesus’ disciples were walking down a road when a stranger approached them and engaged them in a conversation. Later, the disciples managed to persuade the stranger to join them at dinner. During the meal the stranger took bread, blessed it, and gave it to them. Suddenly they realized the stranger was Jesus.
Throughout the history of Christianity, the breaking of the bread has been the most important sign of belief in Jesus. Despite great personal risk (being a Christian in the first century was illegal and was an offense punishable with death), the early Christians gathered at someone’s house before sunrise on the first day of the week to share a meal that included fruits, nuts, cheeses, bread, and wine. In the course of this meal, they read from Scriptures and recalled some of the things Jesus said and did but the most important action occurred when they took the bread, blessed it, and shared it with each other just as Jesus did with His apostles on the night before He died on the cross.
The breaking of the bread soon became a sign of the unity and fellowship of those who followed Jesus. Just as many grains of wheat are used to make flour and many grapes are needed to make wine, many different individuals come together to form the Christian community. Thus, sharing of the one loaf and drinking from the same cup became a visible expression of Christian unity (see Acts 2:41-42).
Historically, Christians haven’t always been as united as they should be. Disagreements over doctrine or discipline have led to splinter groups and factions that compete for converts and donations. In many ways, the unity expressed in the breaking of the bread is not a present day reality, but it is something we must continually strive for.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want to know You more deeply. I want to hear Your voice in Scripture. I want to recognize You in the “breaking of the bread”, to see Your face in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Come and show me Your ways so that I may have life. Amen.
Jakarta, 28 April 2017
A Christian Pilgrim