Recognising Jesus, what we learn from Emmaus
One reason few people today believe what the Church teaches about the Mass is that the teaching is so shocking: After consecration, the host at Mass isn’t bread; it is Jesus Christ Himself. He just looks like bread. Really? Yes Really. Here’s how the Catechism puts it: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.’”
Christians have always believed in the Real Presence. And it has always been shocking. Jesus taught the doctrine most clearly in the sixth chapter of John: “Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. … For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” And the scandalised reaction was: “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ … From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
After rising from the dead, we hear this week of Jesus dramatically demonstrated that he would remain with us in the Mass. In the town of Emmaus, two disciples didn’t recognize Jesus until … “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (Luke 24:30)
What did the first Christians do? They celebrated the Mass, according to Acts: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42) The invaluable early Christian teaching book, the Didache (79 AD) states: “Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized” (Chapter 9). “Every Lord’s Day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure” (Chapter 14).
Strict New Testament rules guarded the Real Presence: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” Writes St Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:27)
Justin the Martyr, sometime between 147AD and 161AD, wrote in his First Apology of “this food we call the Eucharist we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Saviour being incarnate by God’s word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the word of prayer which comes from Him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”
The world understood what Christians believed, and they were shocked, accusing the Christians of cannibalism.
Those disciples in Emmaus recognised Jesus in the ‘breaking of the bread’. May we too venerate and recognise Him as we receive Him at Mass this week. He is here for us too! To heal, forgive, renew and love. Alleluia!!
Fr David Jones OLW