Emmaus was a small town seven miles from Jerusalem. It was off the common trade routes so it was not a busy place. We don't know why these two disciples were walking there this Sunday - maybe to get away from Jerusalem and the horribly depressing events of the previous three days when Jesus was arrested, tortured and crucified, putting an end to their hopes and dreams. The road from Jerusalem to Emmaus was hilly and dusty, little more than a pathway just wide enough for two or three people to walk side by side.
Put yourself on that path to Emmaus this Sunday morning. You are talking with Cleo, another disciple, about the loss of your friend Jesus. He died last Friday and was buried. Your spirit is broken and buried as well! Oh, there is a rumor that Jesus' tomb was found empty earlier this morning, but you know how rumors go! Suddenly a third person appears and walks at your side. He asks what you and Cleo are talking about. Surprised at his supposed ignorance of the news everyone else is talking about, you tell him about Jesus' suffering and death and about the despair it's causing among his disciples. The stranger listens quietly and patiently, and then tells you why it all happened as it did, explaining the words of the great Hebrew prophets concerning the pain and suffering the Messiah had to endure. You listen attentively to this stranger who knows the Scriptures so well, and you begin to understand what he is telling you.
The time passes quickly and soon the three of you arrive at Emmaus. As the day comes to a close, you invite him to share supper with you and Cleo. The stranger accepts, sits with you, blesses the food, takes a loaf of bread, breaks it open and shares it with you and Cleo. At that very moment, your eyes are finally opened and you recognize this stranger. It is Jesus! You recognize him in the "breaking of the bread" as just he did at the Last Supper just four days ago.
Every Sunday Liturgy here is a walk to Emmaus with Jesus. We gather in Jesus' Name and begin our walk. We listen to God's Word spoken by the Hebrew prophets of old and to the Good News spoken by Jesus himself. We engage in prayerful conversation. We bring our gifts to the Table and share a Meal with him. At this Table, Jesus "breaks Bread" and pours Wine for us, to nourish us for our life journey.
As did the two disciples in today's Gospel, we also shout joyfully, "The Master has risen! We recognize him in the breaking of the bread!" Yet for his resurrection to have meaning for us, Jesus must come alive in us, in our hearts, in our minds, in our talk, in our deeds. His Spirit must energize and direct us! As we continue to "break bread" together with Jesus at this Table Sunday after Sunday, we draw closer to him and we support each other on our own hilly and dusty walk through life. Jesus walks with us, even in our weariness and depression! Do we recognize him? Do we see Jesus in the people we meet, in Joseph Owen Howell, the infant about to be baptized? Do we recognize Jesus in the people here in church? Look at the person sitting next to yoone sitting in front of you, the one behind you. Look and see! Do we recognize Jesus in these people? Do we? If we do, we understand the purpose of Jesus' resurrection. If we don't, the fault is not in these people. The fault is in ourselves! So we come often to 'break bread' together, to share this amazing Meal. Our place at this Table was reserved for each of us at our Baptism, so come! Jesus reminds us: "As often as you come to this Table, you are recognizing me. You are remembering me, and I in turn shall recognize and remember you!"