Sunday, 26 April 2020

He was made ‘known to them
in the breaking of the bread’

The Supper at Emmaus … a mosaic in the Church of the Holy Name on Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 26 April 2020,

The Third Sunday of Easter (Easter III)


9.30: Morning Prayer, Castletown Church, Co Limerick

11.30: The Parish Eucharist (HC2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick

The Readings: Acts 2: 14a, 36-41; Psalm 116: 1-3, 10-17; I Peter 1: 17-23; Luke 24: 13-35.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

‘The Road to Emmaus’ … an icon by Sister Marie Paul OSB of the Mount of Olives Monastery, Jerusalem (1990), commissioned by the Canadian theologian Father Thomas Rosica

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Our Easter readings continue with the Gospel story of the Supper at Emmaus, and readings from the post-Pentecost sermon of Saint Peter and from I Peter.

These three readings challenge us to think about what faith in the Risen Christ means for us today.

Instead of turning on Saint Peter when he tells them about the Crucifixion, the people in Jerusalem ask him what they should do. In the epistle reading, Saint Peter tells his readers that being children of God means we should be living a new life in Christ, marked by our mutual love which is genuine and comes from the heart. Instead of being transfixed in the room in Emmaus after their encounter with the Risen Christ, the two disciples return immediately to Jerusalem that night to share the good news.

The Psalm is a timely reminder that we should not be living in fear, but that we must continue to trust in God.

Some years ago, this Gospel story (Luke 24: 13-35) was, by a huge margin, the Bible story quoted most often during at the Synod of Bishops on the Bible, according to Father Thomas Rosica, who briefed English-speaking journalists on the synod speeches.

It is said the story kept coming up at the synod because so many bishops and other synod members saw it as the perfect example of what the Church must do with the Scriptures: discuss them with people, explain them and let them lead people to recognise Jesus.

The Superior General of the Salesians, Father Pasual Chavez Villanueva, told the synod that the story gives precise instructions for how to evangelise the young, emphasising that it is Jesus who evangelises through his word and that evangelisation takes place by walking alongside people, listening to their sorrows, and then giving them a word of hope and a community in which to live it.

Father Chavez told the synod that young people today definitely share with the disciples ‘the frustration of their dreams, the tiredness of their faith and being disenchanted with discipleship.’ They ‘need a church that walks alongside them where they are.’

The story of Jesus and the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus is a very rich one and one that offers a model for Christian life and mission.

After seeing all their hopes shattered on Good Friday, two disciples – Cleopas and another unnamed disciple – head out of Jerusalem, and are walking and talking on the road as their make their way together.

Emmaus was about seven miles from Jerusalem, so it would have taken them two hours, perhaps, to get there, maybe more if they were my age.

Somewhere along the way, they are joined by a third person, ‘but their eyes were kept from recognising him’ (verse 16, NRSVA), or to be more precise, as the Greek text says, ‘but their eyes were being held so that they did not recognise him.’

They cannot make sense of what has happened over the last few days, and they cannot make sense of the questions their new companion puts to them. When Jesus asks them a straight question, they look sad and downcast.

I get the feeling that Cleopas is a bit cynical, treating Jesus as one of the visitors to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, and asking him if he really does not know what has happened in the city. In his cynicism, Cleopas almost sounds like Simon the Pharisee asking his visitor Jesus whether he really knows who the woman with the alabaster jar is.

Like Simon, Cleopas and his friend thought Jesus was a Prophet. But now they doubt it. And the sort of Messiah they hoped for is not the sort of Messiah Jesus had been preparing them for, is he?

And they have heard the report of the women visiting the tomb, and finding it empty. Hearing is not believing. Seeing is not believing. And believing is not the same as faith.

When I find myself disagreeing fundamentally with people, I wonder whether I listen even half as patiently as Jesus did with these two.

There are no interruptions, no corrections, no upbraidings. Jesus listens passively and patiently, like all good counsellors should, and only speaks when they have finished speaking.

And then, despite their cynicism, despite their failure to understand, despite their lack of faith, these two disciples do something extraordinary. They press the stranger in their company not to continue on his journey. It is late in the evening, and they invite him to join them.

On re-reading this story, I found myself comparing their action and their hospitality with the Good Samaritan who comes across the bruised and battered stranger on the side of the road, and offers him healing hospitality, offering to pay for his meals and his accommodation in the inn.

These two have also come across a bruised and battered stranger on the road, and they offer him healing and hospitality, the offer him a meal and accommodation in the inn.

Jesus had once imposed himself on Zacchaeus and presumed on his hospitality. Now Cleopas and his companion insist on imposing their hospitality on Jesus. The guest becomes the host and the host becomes the guest, once again.

He goes in to stay with them. And it is not just a matter of finding him a room for the night. They dine together.

And so, in a manner that is typical of the way Saint Luke tells his stories, the story of the road to Emmaus ends with a meal with Jesus.

And at the meal – as he did with the multitude on the hillside, and with the disciples in the Upper Room – Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to those at the table with him (verse 30).

Their time in the wilderness is over, the Lenten preparation has been completed. The one who has received their hospitality now invites them to receive the hospitality of God, and to join him at the Heavenly Banquet.

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

He was made ‘known to them in the breaking of the bread’ (Luke 24: 35) … bread baked for the Easter Eucharist at Mount Athos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Luke 24: 13-35 (NRSVA):

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 19 He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ 25 Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The Supper at Emmaus (above) and the road to Emmaus (below) in a window in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread.
Open the eyes of our faith,
that we may see him in all his redeeming work;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

‘The Appearance of the Lord at Emmaus’ … a modern icon

Hymns:

260, Christ is alive! Let Christians sing
259, Christ triumphant, ever reigning
415, For the bread which you have broken
478, Go forth and tell! O Church of God, awake!

He was made ‘known to them in the breaking of the bread’ (Luke 24: 35) … a ‘Miner’s Loaf’ with a Cornish Cross on a market stall in Truro (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

This sermon was prepared for the Third Sunday of Easter (Easter III), 26 April 2020, but was used in the Rectory and posted online

The Supper at Emmaus (left) and the Apostle Thomas (right) in a window in Christ Church, Leomansley, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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