Third Sunday of Easter

Today's readings [display_podcast]

emmaus“They recounted … what had taken place on the way, and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”  It is always interesting to me, in this story of the appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus, how the one thing that got through to them was the breaking of the bread.  He spent a long time walking with them, interpreting the Scriptures and recollecting all the things that had happened on the way.  But they never knew it was Jesus until he broke bread with them.

Because of this, the early Christian community quickly took on a Eucharistic identity.  They gathered often and took part in the breaking of the bread, and it is in this act of worship that they found the icon of who they were.  “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus had commanded them, and through appearances like this one on the road to Emmaus, they quickly began to see how important this actually was.  And because the early Christian Community found its own identity in the breaking of the bread, it is not terribly surprising, I think, that we find ourselves to be a Eucharistic people.

Listen to the part of the Gospel where he reveals himself to them once again: “And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.”  There are four specific verbs here: took, blessed, broke, gave.  First Jesus takes bread, receives our offerings, uses what we have to bring to the table.  Then he blesses that bread: as waning as our gifts may be, Jesus blesses them anyway and gives them a character that they could never have on their own, or as a result of our poor efforts.  Then he breaks it: just as his own body was broken for us on the cross, so he breaks the bread of our offerings so that it can be a sacrifice given for many.  Finally he gives it: our bread, our offerings, are now completely transformed, filled up with whatever they may lack, blessed and made available to many, and now given for our own sanctification and salvation.  The gifts we have given, which ultimately came from God, are now given to us once again, only this time with more blessing than they ever had.

We are a Eucharistic people.  So we gather over and over to find our identity once again.  We offer our gifts: bread and wine, our experiences, our sorrows and joys, our loving and our living, our successes and failures, who we are and who we were meant to be.  Jesus takes all this, blesses it, breaks it and offers it back redeemed and sanctified and made whole and holy.  Every time we gather for the Eucharist, we not only recognize our Lord in the breaking of the bread, but also we recognize our selves, the ones we were created to be.

In fact, it is this identity that forms our parish vision statement.  You may have seen it before.  If not, or if not recently, go on our website and look it up.  Here is what it says, and it comes directly from this very Gospel reading.  Listen:

We, the Catholic community of St. Raphael,
are a people being transformed into Christ.

A community gathered –
a worshipping people
called by God
formed by Scripture, Sacrament and Tradition
renewed by the Spirit
united in faith
we journey together.
A community blest –
a gifted people
honoring differences
respecting the dignity of all
learning and teaching
developing leaders
we grow in grace.

A community broken –
a compassionate people
thirsting for justice
aching for peace
receiving and giving forgiveness
bringing hope to the hopeless
we struggle for wholeness.

A community given –
a generous people
welcoming all
offering our treasures
leading with shared wisdom
responding in love
we embrace Christ's mission to transform the world.

Our parish has chosen to identify itself as a Eucharistic community: taken, blessed, broken, and given for all.  How wonderful for us to see our Lord, to see ourselves, and to see one another in the breaking of the bread!