Recognizing Jesus in the Breaking of Bread

April 26, 2019 | Fr. John Freund, C.M.

They recognized him more in what he did than what he said.

They blurted out to the disciples “… what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

Perhaps for the first time, I asked myself why did the breaking of the bread open their eyes more than seeing and listening to him along the road.

Strange it is that they would not have recognized him. Stranger still, it is that they should come to know him in this particular way: He broke bread and they knew him. What an astounding source of revelation! Obviously, his actions spoke louder than his words!
Or maybe it was not so strange after all.


Why they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.

How often they had seen him break bread!

• He brought down the wrath of the religious elite upon himself because of his dietary customs.
• He ate food with sinners and tax collectors in violation of the sanctimonious taboos of his day.
• When the multitude had heard him eagerly throughout a long day, he refused to send them away until they had been fed.
• His followers had seen him take a little boy’s lunch of two fishes and five loaves, bless this food, break it, and then distribute it to a throng of people that numbered in thousands.
• On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus had insisted upon eating the Passover meal with his disciples. After supper, in what was to be his last meal with them before his death, he once again broke bread with them saying, “This is my body.” He shared the cup with them and likened the wine to his blood, soon to be shed.
• He had actually taught his disciples that when they fed another who was hungry, it was as though they were doing it to him.

These were among the flood of memories these disciples brought with them to the table at Emmaus. Maybe it is no wonder they recognized him in action.

This event on a Sunday in Emmaus an isolated event of revelation.

It has been the testimony of the centuries that not only the devout have recognized him anew but that also those of the world have come to know him when bread is broken.
Jesus himself describes the utter surprise the righteous and the end of time who ask: “When did we see you hungry and feed you?” And the king shall respond: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it unto me.”

With his own words, reminded his friends to “Do this (wash one another’s feet) in memory of me.” He still calls us today and judges us when we fail to respond in his name.

Do our actions help people recognize Jesus?

As his earliest followers wrote:

If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go and be filled,” without giving them the things they needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2:15-16)
If any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 John 3:17)

Luke told the story in his gospel “of all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1), but a whole separate volume—the book of Acts—was needed to tell how Christ continued to do and teach these same things through his second body—the church.

In saving us, Christ is incorporating us into himself. We become people in Christ. We become his new body—the body of Christ.

The church may preach God’s love with great eloquence, yet there is no eloquence so persuasive as that expressed when God’s people as Christ’s body feed the hungry in this world. They are the ones with whose needs Christ fully identifies himself.
All this should make great sense to Vincentians. Vincent taught us to do and then teach. He taught us to nourish the forgotten one BOTH spiritually and physically.

“Do this in memory of me!” – Vincentian action today

• Do people recognize us by our actions in breaking bread with them?
• How well do we nourish those who are physically hungry today?
• How well do we nourish those who are spiritually hungry today?

This reflection draws heavily from a reflection by Clyde Tilley

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