Sunday, April 06, 2008

Homily for the third Sunday of Easter - 04-06-08

Homily for the third Sunday of Easter - Year A
Acts 2:14, 22b-33 - 1 Pt 1:17-21 - Lk 24:13-35
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen

The Breaking of the Bread

Acts 2:14, 22b-33

Acts 2:14, Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and
addressed them, «Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let
this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 22, Jesus of
Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders
and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves
know -- 23, this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan
and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of
lawless men. 24, But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of
death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25, For
David says concerning him, "I saw the Lord always before me, for he
is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26, therefore my heart
was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in
hope. 27, For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy
Holy One see corruption. 28, Thou hast made known to me the ways of
life; thou wilt make me full of gladness with thy presence." 29,
Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he
both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30,
Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an
oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
31, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he
was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32,
This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33, Being
therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from
the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this
which you see and hear.»

1 Pt 1:17-21

1 Pt 1:17, If you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially
according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the
time of your exile. 18, You know that you were ransomed from the
futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things
such as silver or gold, 19, but with the precious blood of Christ,
like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20, He was destined
before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end
of the times for your sake. 21, Through him you have confidence in
God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your
faith and hope are in God.

Lk 24:13-35

Lk 24:13, That very day two of them were going to a village named
Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14, and talking with each
other about all these things that had happened. 15, While they were
talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went
with them. 16, But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17, And
he said to them, «What is this conversation which you are holding
with each other as you walk?» And they stood still, looking sad. 18,
Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, «Are you the only
visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened
there in these days?» 19, And he said to them, «What things?» And
they said to him, «Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet
mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20, and how
our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to
death, and crucified him. 21, But we had hoped that he was the one to
redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day
since this happened. 22, Moreover, some women of our company amazed
us. They were at the tomb early in the morning 23, and did not find
his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision
of angels, who said that he was alive. 24, Some of those who were
with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said;
but him they did not see.» 25, And he said to them, «O foolish men,
and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26,
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and
enter into his glory?» 27, And beginning with Moses and all the
prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things
concerning himself. 28, So they drew near to the village to which
they were going. He appeared to be going further, 29, but they
constrained him, saying, «Stay with us, for it is toward evening and
the day is now far spent.» So he went in to stay with them. 30, When
he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke
it, and gave it to them. 31, And their eyes were opened and they
recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32, They said to
each other, «Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us
on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?» 33, And they rose
that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven
gathered together and those who were with them, 34, who said, «The
Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!» 35, Then they told
what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the
breaking of the bread.


This Sunday's gospel is well known: it concerns the meeting of Jesus
and the disciples of Emmaus. And yet, instead of commenting on all
three liturgical readings, as is my custom in this cycle of homilies,
I will limit myself to this passage from the New Testament. Besides,
does this gospel not make reference to the Old Testament? How could
Jesus talk about himself with the help of scriptural texts if he did
not make use of passages from the Old Testament? Moreover, as I said
last Sunday, the rite of the breaking of the bread, evoked by the
evangelist Saint Luke, is it not a custom of Jewish origin? And so
discussing this gospel will plunge us into the heart of our origins:
the Old Testament.

Christianity is not Judaism; nor is it a continuation of Judaism. Nor
does it want to substitute itself for Judaism. But, under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, Christ, and the Apostles following his
example, took from Judaism what was to be preserved, adapted it, and
added to it all that was proper to the New Covenant. One Jewish
custom preserved by Christianity, a custom I have already discussed
at length, liturgically and theologically, in one of my works:
(see: ),
is the Breaking of the Bread: "Then they told what had happened on the
road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread." (Lk

The breaking of the bread is a gesture to which Jewish custom had
given a religious, almost mystical sense. When, on certain occasions,
the family gets together to eat, the father of the family blesses the
meal and shares the bread, breaking it with his fingers, in order to
give a piece of it to each person at the table, as a sign of
fraternal communion. Notably, this is the case at the Passover meal.
It is what Jesus did at the Last Supper, sharing his Body present
under the appearance of the bread: "He took bread, and when he had
given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, «This is my
body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.»" (Lk

In the earliest days of Christianity, when the pagans confused the
Christians with the members of the Jewish community, it was necessary
to act with prudence towards both the Jews and the pagans. Not all
Christians were called to be martyrs. The survival of the Church
required a law of secrecy, a law of the arcane, in order to hide and
protect the Holy Mysteries entrusted by the Lord himself: in
particular, the Holy Mysteries properly speaking, that is to say the
Eucharist. Jesus himself had warned his disciples: "Do not give dogs
what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine." (Matt 7:6)
And: "Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matt 10:16)

So we can easily understand why Saint Luke speaks of the Eucharistic
celebration as the "breaking of the bread" (Acts 2:42 and 46). To the
eyes of the uninitiated, the Eucharistic Mystery could very well be
taken for a simple Jewish custom, inserted into or included in a
great prayer of thanksgiving: the Eucharistic Prayer.

In this sense, the Breaking of the Bread is an action that would lead
one to not know who or what is the Bread of Life, that is to say
Jesus-Eucharist. Moreover, the gesture itself of breaking the Bread
of Life leads the mind to think, wrongly it is true, that the Bread
of Life is in a way destroyed, and has become nonexistent. Let us
recall the following stanzas of the Lauda Sion, in which the author,
who is believed to be Saint Thomas Aquinas, tries to reassure the
believer when the latter sees the Bread of Life broken or torn:
"Fracto demum sacramento, Ne vacilles, sed memento Tantum esse sub
fragmento, Quantum toto tegitur. Nulla rei fit scissura : Signi
tantum fit fractura, Qua nec status, nec statura Signati
minuitur." (If we divide the holy Host, do not hesitate, but remember
that he is in each fragment just as much as he is in the whole. The
divine Body is not broken: only the sign is broken, but neither the
state nor the greatness of the reality signified is diminished.)

Of course, the Breaking of the Bread does not harm the Body of Christ.
But the exterior, apparent sign might lead us to believe that it
does. This amounts to saying that, understood as a custom of Jewish
origin, the Breaking of the Bread leads to a non-recognition, or to
an ignorance of the Eucharistic reality: to observe the law of the
arcane and to protect the Holy Mysteries, the Bread of Life is, under
the Jewish custom of the Breaking of the Bread, as it were veiled and
hidden, it is unrecognized or unknown. But thanks to the Spirit of
God, all who are initiates, that is to say all who are true disciples
of Christ, like the pilgrims of Emmaus after their conversion,
recognize the presence of Christ, the Bread of Life, despite, and
through, the rite of the Breaking of the Bread: "When he was at table
with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it
to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him..." (Lk

Let us ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who was present at the Last
Supper, to help us to recognize, to an ever greater extent, her
Divine Son, in order to for us love him with a limitless love!

Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen