In many places in the New Testament, especially on several occasions in the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that the first disciples met regularly for “the breaking of the bread”. This was the first name given to the Mass. The disciples did this of course because the Lord had commanded them to do so. At the Last Supper He had said, “Do this in memory of Me”. But the event in today’s gospel explains how they understood the meaning of what they did. When the disciples on the Road to Emmaus finally recognize the Risen Christ when He breaks bread with them, the early Church came to see that every time they obeyed the command of the Lord, He himself would be there with them. They would not simply be calling to mind who He was and what He had done, but He Himself would be among them to share with them His life and love. The bread itself and the wine itself would be transformed by his power to be His risen self sharing His victory with them. As St. Paul says “the bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?” All of this over the centuries has been understood as what we call “the Real Presence.” The consecrated bread and wine, through the divine power of the Holy Spirit, is transformed into the living presence of the Lord. It is not merely a symbol of Him. It is not simply a memorial. It is He Himself in his Risen body here for us. We will never understand or be able to adequately explain this mystery. We believe it because the Lord promised it would be so. But as one of the early Fathers of the church taught, if we can believe that God created everything out of nothing by His powerful word, why should we believe less that that same word can turn simple bread and wine into the presence of the Lord?
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