‘In the Breaking of the Bread’

Family Matters: Catholic Culture


Whenever I hear the reading about the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:1-16), I think about my middle son and the lesson I learned from him when he was 5 years old.

We’d taken the kids to Eucharistic adoration, expecting Luke was old enough to understand our explanation of the mystery of the Real Presence. The church looked beautiful, with the candles all lighted and the monstrance gleaming from atop the main altar. 

All was quiet, until Luke started tugging at my husband’s sleeve. “Dad! Dad!” he whisper-shouted. “Sssh!” Mark warned. But it did no good. Luke was insistent. Finally, Mark said, “What is it?” In unrestrained frustration, Luke called out, “When’s God gonna show up?”

I thought I would die of embarrassment.

Luke was looking for Our Lord to appear in a way that would be obvious to him. And when that didn’t happen, he became frustrated.

I picture the disciples heading to Emmaus to be much like Luke. Their friend, confidante, teacher and leader was brutally murdered and buried. Distraught, they were left to figure out what to do next. Jesus had promised that he’d rise again on the Third Day. So, where was he? Did he really mean that he’d come back to life? 

As they’re walking along, trying to make sense of the senseless, a stranger appears and joins them in their journey. They don’t recognize him.

Then the stranger explains to them all that was written about Jesus in the Scriptures, and still they don’t recognize him. They liked what he was telling them, but didn’t think to question who he was or how he knew what he knew.

They were too busy trying to figure out how and where Jesus would appear to realize that he had appeared — right under their noses.

How did they finally recognize him? In the Breaking of the Bread, the holy Eucharist. They’d been like 5-year-old Luke, ignoring the monstrance and searching for the “real” Jesus.

That’s us, too, isn’t it? We’re often so busy looking for Our Lord to appear in our lives in obvious ways that we miss the mysterious and subtle ways he appears right under our noses. Like the disciples, our “eyes were kept from recognizing him.”

There are so many times in our lives during which we feel certain that Jesus has abandoned us, or at least isn’t paying any attention. When we’re in desperate need, we want Our Lord to show up and immediately meet that need. When we’re in a crisis, we want Jesus front and center, working to solve it pronto. If we’re suffering from a loss, we want Jesus to come quick and fill our empty hearts. In times of confusion, we want Jesus to show up and make it all clear — right now. We want him to rise as he promised and appear as we want him to.

He did rise as he’d promised, and he is appearing to us, just not the way we want him to. Instead, he appears in the way that we need him to. He’s there, walking right beside us on our private road to Emmaus, and he is meeting our needs, solving our crises, filling our empty hearts and making things clear.  He is doing all that he promised, but our eyes often are kept from recognizing him through our own stubbornness, pride or desperation.

During the times that Jesus is hidden from our view, for whatever reason, there is one place where he always will be apparent to us: in the Breaking of the Bread. We’ll find him in the holy Eucharist, and he will fill our hearts with joy.

Marge Fenelon writes from Cudahy, Wisconsin.

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