When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)
This past Wednesday evening, I celebrated the Eucharist at our weekly healing service at Heavenly Rest, which was great for me because the Gospel lesson appointed for Wednesday in Easter Week is one of my favorite parts of Luke’s Gospel, the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus who encounter the risen Christ.
I began the homily by sharing a memory from two years ago. It was October of 2014, and I was preparing to be ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church. As part of my preparation, I decided to make time for a pre-ordination retreat. So, I headed to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to spend a few days with the brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an order of Anglican monks.
In my homily, I shared about my participation with the brothers in the daily round of prayer in the chapel and about my experience in attending the Eucharist- about how, despite having attended so many celebrations of the Eucharist in my lifetime, I was especially moved by this particular experience.
You see, rather than using the ordinary words of invitation before the distribution of Communion, “The Gifts of God for the People of God,” the priest held up the bread and the wine and invited the people to Communion by saying, “Behold what you are; may you become what you receive.” Profound words from St. Augustine of Hippo, words that I had heard countless times before that moment, but words made even more meaningful by hearing them used as an invitation to Communion. “Behold what you are; may you become what you receive.” Receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and become those very gifts, broken and poured out for the life of the world.
I am convinced that, like the disciples who encounter Jesus on their journey to the small village of Emmaus and whose eyes are opened to the truth when Jesus is with them around the dinner table, something of God is revealed to us when we gather together to celebrate the Eucharist. Something of God is revealed to us when we gather to take the gifts that God has so graciously given us, bless them, break them open, and give them back to God as spiritual food for God’s People. Not only is it the unfolding pattern of worship that we experience in the Great Thanksgiving. As disciples of Jesus Christ, it is the way that we are called to live our lives. Take, bless, break, and give.
At the conclusion of my homily, I shared a new sonnet by Anglican poet and priest, Malcolm Guite, about how, despite the loneliness and grief that the disciples must have felt in the aftermath of our Lord’s death, there is victory in the end- about how, despite the feelings of loneliness and grief that we experience in our own time, there is victory when the People of God continue to participate in the saving work of our Lord’s death and resurrection, a saving work made known to us most vividly in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.
By Malcolm Guite (b. 1957)
We thought that everything was lost and gone,
Disaster on disaster overtook us
The night we left our Jesus all alone
And we were scattered, and our faith forsook us.
But oh that foul Friday proved far worse,
For we had hoped that he had been the one,
Till crucifixion proved he was a curse,
And on the cross our hopes were all undone.
Oh foolish foolish heart why do you grieve?
Here is good news and comfort to your soul:
Open your mind to scripture and believe
He bore the curse for you to make you whole
The living God was numbered with the dead
That He might bring you Life in broken bread.
Here is a link to Malcolm’s blog.