IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD – Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

April 26, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1:17-23
Luke 24:13-35

Lectionary for Mass (RC)

Acts 2:14, 22-33
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
1 Peter 1:17-21
Luke 24:13-35

Last summer at my high school reunion, I was deeply embarrassed when I inadvertently introduced myself for the second time to a classmate with whom I had spoken less than an hour previously. I had failed to recognize him not once but twice. Yes, he had changed over the years, but I still felt stung by the visible hurt on his face.

In many of the post-resurrection stories found in Luke and John, the closest companions of Jesus fail to recognize him. The eleven and their companions “thought that they were seeing a ghost” (Lk 24:37). Mary Magdalene mistook him for the gardener (Jn 20:15). Jesus himself showed his hands and side to the gathered disciples—and to Thomas—to reassure them that it was really he (Jn 20:20, 20:27). On the fishing boat it was the beloved disciple who tipped off Peter that the man on the beach was Jesus after their nets were strained from an unusually large haul (Jn 21:7).

Like my high school classmate, Jesus had changed. Indeed, he had been transformed in his rising to new life, and so the disciples needed new eyes—the eyes of faith—in order to recognize him.

The issue of recognition is at the heart of today’s Gospel story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. From the moment that he joined these two downhearted followers on their journey, neither of them knew that it was Jesus walking with them: “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (24:17). Luke signals to us that they will come to know him in new ways, more deeply than they had previously.

Only at the end of the day, as they sat at table, did they recognize him when he took the bread, broke it, blessed it, and gave it to them (Lk 24:30-31). It was only then that they came to recognize his presence with them in their companionship, in their journey, in the scriptures, in teaching, in hospitality, at table, and in sharing the good news with others. The breaking of bread was the key moment in opening their vision to the many ways that they had experienced his presence throughout that day.

Much like the two pilgrims on the road, we have been witnesses to—and participated in—a time of bitter disillusionment and profound discouragement over these past weeks and months. Our confidence has been challenged by a tiny virus that has killed tens of thousands and disrupted our way of life. We grieve for the dead, have concern for the sick, and feel anxious about our own well-being and the welfare of others.

The breaking of bread continues to offer us a key to reflecting on the many ways that Christ continues to be present with us even now: in those who walk with others in their discouragement and loss; in virtual gatherings for prayer and reflection on God’s word; in teleconferences to foster conversation, encouragement, and fun; in hospitality extended through phone calls, messages, and social media; in care shown to the sick by health workers, relatives, and friends; in comfort offered to the grieving.

In the breaking of the bread, the crucified and risen One has opened our eyes to his presence at every step in our life’s journey, just as he accompanied those two dejected disciples on their way to Emmaus. When our faith communities gather once again in person to break bread together, may our hearts burn within us as our eyes are opened to recognize him more clearly.

A Hymn for Today: “Day of Arising”

Day of arising,
Christ on the roadway,
unknown companion
walks with his own.
When they invite him,
as fades the first day,
and bread is broken,
Christ is made known.

When we are walking,
doubtful and dreading,
blinded by sadness,
slowness of heart,
yet Christ walks with us,
ever awaiting
our invitation:
Stay, do not part.

Lo, I am with you,
Jesus has spoken.
This is Christ’s promise,
this is Christ’s sign:
when the church gathers,
when bread is broken,
there Christ is with us,
in bread and wine.

Christ our companion,
hope for the journey,
bread of compassion,
open our eyes.
Grant us your vision,
set all hearts burning
that all creation
with you may rise.

Text: Susan Palo Cherwien, © 1996, Susan Palo Cherwien, admin. Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission.

Image Credit: Risen Christ on the Road to Emmaus [link: ]

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.