Bread-breaking was one of my resolutions for the year, and I'd say we're doing this marginally at our house--Welcoming others into our home to share a meal and break bread together (which is so much more than feeding people). It is the ritual in which we reveal ourselves to one another, in the posture of our teacher. To feed physically and spiritually, whether we recognize that is what we are doing or not, just seems to be in our bones.
There are neighbors and friends that we have eaten with and those with whom we have not. I have noticed that I never pretend to know those with whom I haven't broken bread with well, because (I think) we have not sat together at table. Certainly not because I don't like them--it just feels premature no matter how long we have called one another, neighbors or friends. *Thus the resolution and the timely reminder to stay with it!
There have been a couple of selected times when I have shared a meal with another and come to see Jesus in that encounter--the homeless man that joined our family at a pancake breakfast one morning after church; nursing a helpless infant; painstakingly feeding pureed meat and vegetables to a young man with Cerebral Palsy, from a baby spoon; on a patio at Jamba Juice sipping smoothies with a co-worker. These are the scarce and blessed times when the scales have fallen off my own eyes and I have recognized Christ in front of me--maybe not the only times, but the times I was paying attention.
The Gospel today describes an encounter where we read that Jesus' disciples 'eyes were prevented from recognizing him.' There isn't much reason given as to why that is the case. Huh?
So what about those seemingly God-ordained times when we are physically prevented from recognizing him? Why would that be?
Admittedly this gives me some peace to think that maybe it's not 'just me,' that in fact it may be harder than I wish to notice the presence of the Creator in others—that there are even times when I am incapable of doing so. Since I have left my formal ministry role it has been a challenge to see with the same eyes, feeling as though I am not put in the circumstances of encounter that I once was working in the city and therefore not noticing Christ in the more overt and 'distressing disguises' that I once did. Instead, the challenge seems to be to seek him in the ordinary: the roads I walk all the time, and the people walking them with me.
Once again, I have come face to face with the uncomfortable and obvious reality: This faith walk is not supposed to be easy. These heaven-sent gifts described as a heart burning within, or recognizing Christ in the breaking of the bread--these are not casual occurrences, and I suppose that means my seeking cannot be casual, either. As much as I desire my own Emmaus moment(s), their significance and elusiveness do keep me on the lookout in a sense. And maybe that's the point.
One of my favorite local homilists shared a story about his formation with the Jesuits in which he was given one hundred dollars and instructions to make his way to another part of the country for a retreat. These funds weren't sufficient, which required much creativity, prayer and leaning on the goodness of others. He shared a story of an encounter he had in a bus station with a man who asked for a good portion of his stipend which he reluctantly gave and when he looked back, the man had vanished. Upon reaching his brothers in formation, the question came up: "Do you think it was Jesus?" Ultimately, he admitted he didn't know at the time, but after much thought, he now knows the answer to the question his seminarian friends asked...
"Was it Jesus? Yes. It always is."
His response has lingered with me. Maybe these ‘Emmaus moments’ aren't frequent, but they do happen--those moments when my heart (or my tear ducts) are burning from within because what has just passed before me can only be described as an encounter with the living God. If nothing else, the Gospel today is a reminder to put myself in situations (physically/mentally/emotionally/spiritually) that cause me to ask this question with greater frequency.