Posted October 12, 2005
A Timely and Beautifully Written Reflection on the Eucharist
During the Year
of the Eucharist
Emmanus and The Eucharist
by Rev. John Lodge
The story of the Risen Lord’s appearance to two disciples as they are making
their way to the obscure village of Emmaus astonishes and electrifies us. It
is a tale of appearance and disappearance, of revelation and hiddenness.
Above all, the story in Luke’s hands becomes an icon or teaching about the
Eucharist. How is the risen Jesus present to us now? It is in the breaking
of the bread.
Gathering (Luke 24:13-16)
The day is that very day, the first day of the week, Sunday, when – as we’ve
just been told – some women found Jesus’ tomb empty and men in dazzling
clothing saying Jesus had risen from the dead. The disciples do not believe
the impossibily good news. Two of them, instead of being reliable witnesses
to the good news in Jerusalem (two men is the number you need for dependable
evidence: Deut 19:15), are running away to Emmaus. The further they move
away from Jerusalem – the city that, according Jesus, is the place to be —
the more confused they become.
The Good Shepherd appears beside them on the road to gather them back to
Jerusalem, the city of destiny. As in the parable of the ninety-nine sheep,
Jesus has left the main body of disciples in order to bring back the
wanderers. Since the two cannot understand what has happened to them either
in light of the Scriptures of Jesus’ words and deeds while among them: the
two disciples are prevented (=God prevents them: a divine passive) from
fully recognizing (epiginosko) who this is with them. Just as at the
beginning of Luke’s gospel Zechariah’s speech was impaired when he doubted
the angel, now the disciples’ sight is affected when they disbelieve the
full meaning of what the women have seen and reported.
Liturgy of the Word (Luke 24:17-27)
Jesus’ question about what the two disciples are discussing stops them in
their tracks, and their grief overtakes them. One of the disciples, Cleopas,
ironically accuses Jesus of being out of touch with the current events.
Cleopas, with help from the other disciples, then gives a concise summary of
all that Luke has been narrating: Jesus’ prophetic ministry of might words
and deeds, his death at the hands of the Jewish and Roman officials, the
dashed hopes of those awaiting Israel’s redemption, the discovery of the
empty tomb, and the vision of angels. Only one thing is missing:
comprehension of the meaning of the events, a comprehension which the
readers of Luke’s gospel have. On the lips of the foolish disciples, Jesus’s
story is an ungospel, simply the story of the “historical Jesus.”
Liturgy of the Eucharist (Luke 24:28-32)
The disciples seem to be impressed, because, though Jesus appeared to be
going further, they prevail upon him to stay with them. Then they are at
table. Meals with Jesus are a major theme of Luke’s gospel; but this is not
just any meal. Luke clearly presents this banquet as the Eucharist: he took
the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. Luke used the same
language in the miraculous feeding and at the Last Supper.
Two things that then happen almost simultaneously highlight the significance
of the Emmaus Eucharist. The disciples are now allowed to fully recognize
Jesus, and, just as he appears clearly to them, he disappears from their
sight. The are so excited that, although it is now evening, the run all the
way back to Jerusalem to tell the others how he was known to them in the
breaking of the bread, i.e., the Eucharist.
The point of the story is that, though in a hidden, sacramental way, Jesus
is really present for believers now in the Eucharist. When we’re tempted to
wish that we were back there with the disciples, seeing the risen Lord, we
should recall that we are better off now than they were. The Risen Lord was
present only in a limited way: in specific places. Now, in the Eucharist,
Jesus can be present in all times and places, in all our hearts.