11 April 2012

Staying with us in the breaking of the bread

Wednesday of the Octave of Easter
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Have you ever had one of those moments when you suddenly, unexpectedly understand something that has eluded you for years? Try as you might, you just can't quite see the whole problem clearly, or grasp the solution firmly. Others try to help. You consult experts; read books; search the internet, but the pattern of events or the connections among the various elements of the problem just won't congeal into a coherent picture. Finally, one day, while you're mowing the yard or driving to work—BAM!—it hits you! All the pieces, all the connections, all the definitions and angles fall gracefully into place and you understand. Zen Buddhists call this satori. In the West, we call it a Eureka moment—the moment that our minds pierce the fog of confusion and we achieve a peaceful clarity; it is the moment our eyes are opened and we see, truly see. While walking toward the town of Emmaus, two of Jesus' disciples have their eyes opened to Christ's presence. Why couldn't they see him at first? The disciples were “looking downcast,” depressed with grief. Rather than seeking the Lord himself, they were looking for consolation. How was their sight returned to them? In the blessing and breaking of the bread.

Cleopas and his fellow disciple are despondent about the death of Jesus and the disappearance of his body from the tomb. Their grief and confusion prevents them from recognizing Jesus when he meets them on the road. They recount the dramatic events of the past few days. In response, Jesus, exclaims, “Oh, how foolish you are!” What causes their folly? Their hearts are slow to believe all that the prophets had revealed about the Christ. Jesus asks, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Had the disciples listened and believed all that Jesus had taught them, they would know that there is no reason to grieve, no reason to be downcast. Being a patient teacher, Jesus walks them through the scriptures, beginning with Moses, and shows them step by step how he has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. When they all arrive in Emmaus, the disciples make a simple yet profound request of the stranger who's walked with them, “Stay with us.” He does. And their eyes are opened to see the Lord when he blesses and breaks bread for them. He stays with us in the breaking of the bread.

Like these disciples who spend their limited time grieving the death of the Lord instead of seeking his wisdom, we too cause ourselves useless confusion and anxiety by refusing to trust in a fundamental truth: God is always with us, always among us, and providing for our care. How often do we cry out for God's help and fail to see the help He has sent b/c we are too busy looking for the help we want? How often do we bargain with God and fail to see the gifts He has freely given us b/c we are too busy bargaining for the things we want? In the scriptures and the teaching ministry of the Church, we have everything we need to understand that Jesus is the Christ. In the sacraments of the Church and our own charitable works, we have everything we need to grow in holiness. What the scriptures, the magisterium, the sacraments, and our good works cannot do for us is prise open our eyes to see God working among us and for us. For that, we must say, each of us must say, “Stay with us, Lord!” And he remains—plain to see and hear—in the Word of his prophets and in the breaking of the bread.
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