- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories: Encountering Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread
Can we live our faith in isolation? Are we able to be believers without a community? There are many who assert that they have a spirituality, but it is so personal that they live it with no community. It is their own and they do not need others to be part of their spiritual life. Christian faith, Christian spirituality is more than personal. It is very much a community experience. The Gospels express this in so many ways, none more significant than the accounts of the Risen Jesus appearing to the disciples. In many of these instances, the experiences occur as the disciples are gathered together. Not only are they together, they are together around a table, sharing a meal. In this, Christian spirituality is strongly human.
Did you ever think about how much of our conversations take place over a cup of coffee or at a meal? It seems that the connections we make with others very often lead us to sitting down and sharing food and drink. Developing relationships and sharing a meal together seem so natural to us. Thus, it should come as little surprise that if we searched the Scriptures for the encounters his disciples had with Jesus after his resurrection they frequently involved a meal. What we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 24:35-48) is one of these occasions.
Luke’s account begins with a reference to an encounter that two disciples had with the Risen Jesus as they were walking along the road to Emmaus. What is striking is that the Gospel noted that: Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. These two disciples only recognized Jesus when they broke bread together.
There is something quite significant about this breaking of the bread. It is Eucharistic. The earliest Christians began to gather regularly as communities of believers. When they gathered they did so in a Eucharistic fashion, sharing stories of Jesus, recalling how the Jewish Old Testament Scriptures were fulfilled in him, sharing in the meal of the Eucharist and then noting that they were to be witnesses of all this to all nations.
It is in the gathering of the faith community, around the table of the Eucharist that we most commonly express the faith and Spirit that draws us together. It is here we experience the presence of the Risen Jesus active in our midst. It is from this assembly of Christians that we go forth to serve as witnesses to the continuing love of God expressed in our world.
What Luke describes of the appearance of the Risen Jesus to the disciples is what we live each time we gather for the Eucharist and go out into the world in care and concern. The encounter with Jesus in the breaking of the bread is at the base of who are – disciples of Jesus, gifted with his Spirit, bringing his healing care to our world.