One thing I could not understand while growing up was how some people ridiculed others for their appreciation of food. Some children would cry because their playmates called them names about how they liked food. I was already in college seminary when some seminarians made fun of me for relishing food. In response, I said, “When it was time for Jesus to return to his Father in heaven, he did not want his followers to forget him; he wanted to leave his memory with them. And of all the human activities on earth, he chose to ritualize his memory in the context of eating and drinking. He said, ‘Take … and eat… and drink … Do this in memory of me.” He did not ask them to pray in his memory, fast in his memory, preach in his memory, or read the scripture in his memory. He told them to eat and drink in his memory.

Apart from that, he made himself recognizable after his resurrection by eating with his followers. Today’s Gospel passage begins by saying, “The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.” The two disciples were Cleopas and his unnamed companion, to whom Jesus appeared on their way to Emmaus. They thought Jesus was just a lonely traveler when he joined them. He asked them what they were talking about, and they were surprised that he was the only one who did not know what happened to Jesus. He then explained the Scriptures to them, telling them how the law and the prophets pointed to him, but they still did not recognize him. It was when they invited him over to rest with them that he broke the bread, and at that point, their eyes opened, and they recognized him.

Later in today’s Gospel passage, when Jesus appeared to the disciples, they were terrified. They thought he was a ghost, and to prove to them that he was not a ghost, he asked them, “Have you anything to eat?” The passage continues, “They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.”

So, what is it about Jesus and eating? What is it about Jesus and breaking of bread? It seems Jesus was so well known for breaking bread that after his resurrection, it was one action through which his followers could easily tell him apart from others. The disciples on the road to Emmaus walked miles with him. They listened to him explain the scripture and ask them questions, and nothing helped them recognize him. It was only when he broke the bread that their eyes immediately opened.

There must be some power behind eating and drinking, which we have yet to explore. From the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, when the devil wanted to destroy humanity, he used the route of eating. He made our first parents, Adam, and Eve to eat, and their eyes opened, they realized that they were naked, and they lost communion with God. They ate in rebellion against God.

When Jesus came to earth, he came to restore that broken communion between God and human beings and among human beings. Since the communion was broken by eating, he came to restore it by eating. He fed the crowds that gathered to listen to him. It was from a few loaves of bread and fish. He took the bread and fish, thanked God for them, broke them, and gave them to his followers, and they all ate to their satisfaction with extra to spare.

The night before he died, he institutionalized this act of eating in the presence of his twelve apostles. He followed the same four steps as he did when he fed the crowds: he took, he gave thanks, he broke, and he gave it to them. He gave them wine to drink as his blood. He then gave the command, “Do this in my memory.” In this way, he institutionalized the four actions: he took, he gave thanks, he broke, and he gave them. These four actions also summarize all that Jesus came to do on earth. Little wonder the Church defines the Holy Eucharist as the “source and summit” of the Christian life. The Church’s life begins and ends in the Holy Eucharist.

Similarly, each Christian life should begin and end in the Eucharist. Every day, as members of Christ’s Body, we gather to repeat these same actions: he took bread, he gave thanks, he broke it, and he gave it to them. What we do at Mass must not end at Mass. When the Priest or Deacon dismisses us, saying, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord,” the message is, “Go and repeat these same four Eucharistic actions outside the Church.” So, the whole of our lives must be characterized by these four steps:

Step 1: Jesus took the bread. This teaches us that no one is so rich as to have everything, and no one is so poor as to have nothing to give. Even though Jesus is God, he humbled himself to receive bread from us. He also received flesh from us through the Blessed Virgin Mary. We must be humble to receive from the generosity of others.

Step 2: He gave thanks to God. This step is a reminder that all that we have comes from God, for which we must be thankful

Step 3: He broke it. Jesus broke the bread as an act of generosity. He broke the break so as to share with others. He invites us to do the same. Bread is meant to be broken; not to be stored selfishly. Our talents, time, and treasure are to be broken and shared.

Step 4. He gave it to them. Remember, whatever we have, we have been given to give and blessed to bless. It is not enough to count our blessings. It is also very necessary to share our blessings.

My dearly beloved in Christ, after his resurrection, Jesus Christ was recognizable and recognized in the breaking of bread. In the same way, the world will recognize us based on how we break our bread to share with others. And more importantly, at the end of our sojourn here on earth, Jesus Christ will say to us, “Come over here and enjoy the Kingdom of my Father in heaven because, when I was hungry, you broke your bread for me. For whatsoever you do to the least of my people, you do unto me.”

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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