There is an old saying: Some eat to live others live to eat. It appears to stem from the 17th century French playwright Moliere. Its sense is that some people eat because it sustains us in life. It is how we nourish our bodies. Others, love to eat as a way of experiencing many wonderful tastes of the food consumed. Perhaps however there is another reason for a meal. It is a social experience, gathering us together in an effective way. It unites us and allows us to relate to one another. A meal is a community building experience, a way of acknowledging our common experiences.
Over the past few years I have met several people who have walked the Camino trail in northern Spain. This is a pilgrimage route of about 800kms, from southern France, across northern Spain to Santiago di Compostela. The route has seen pilgrims, Christian and non-Christian, for more than 1000 years. In conversations with some who have done the pilgrimage, they often note that along the way they met and shared their stories with others. Very often, this sharing of their stories takes place at the end of the day, when they sit down at a table and share their evening meal with other pilgrims.
This experience of shared stories is what we see in Luke 24:13-35. The Gospel writer relates the story of two disciples of Jesus after the crucifixion. They are on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The journey is a kind of pilgrimage for them. And like all pilgrimages it will be life-changing for them, a conversion.
As they walk along the road, the disciples are talking about what has taken place in Jerusalem. Luke tells of how Jesus approaches them. As Luke puts it: “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” So often, in these stories of the resurrection appearances, the disciples at first, do not recognize the risen one when he appears among them.
In the Emmaus story, it is obvious that the disciples are disillusioned by the events they are discussing. Then they meet a stranger on the road who asks them about what they are discussing. They relate what has taken place with saddness. In the crucifixion their hopes had been dashed.
The stranger then recounts the prophet stories from the scriptures, still they do not recognize him. When they are about to stop their trek, the stranger seems about to continue along the road. Something about him and what he related urges them to ask that he stay with them.
As they sat at the table and began their evening meal, the stranger “took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” Then their eyes were opened.” The disciples recognized the risen one in their midst at the breaking of the bread. This was the very action of Jesus did with his disciples at the Last Supper, asking them to “do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19).” Now, at the table as they share the meal, they recognize the risen Jesus with them. They have a conversion. The stories they shared on the road and the stories the stranger related to them from the scriptures found meaning for the disciples at the table, at the breaking of the bread. Now they see, and believe
Every Sunday, at every Eucharist, our Christian communities come together. We carry with us what has happened around us, and in our world. We share our experiences and stories of the past week or month. Then we listen to our sacred stories from the scriptures. At the Table, we celebrate the Eucharist with each other and we do so in remembrance of Jesus, to be with one another at the “breaking of the bread.” This Eucharistic event is our own Emmaus story. It is a moment of conversion for us, a time to recognize the risen Jesus active and present among us in our own pilgrimage of life.