Eucharistic Appetizer-Passion, Emaus

Eucharistic Appetizer  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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5th in a 10-part series on "The Eucharist" in short form (5-15 minutes) as a precursor to an evening of reflection on Prayer & Presence (Sacred Story/Examen). Chosen to compliment the 3-year USCCB Eucharistic Revival


Continuing where we left off...

Good evening! *In our time together, we have examined covenantal history throughout the Bible and how each covenant led the people of God along the path of salvation with little Eucharistic breadcrumbs along the way.
We need to remember, throughout Salvation History, God established covenants with His people by (1) making a vow; and (2) sealing that vow with the blood of sacrifice. *Last month, we looked at how, at the Last Supper, Jesus instituted a new covenant that would be realized through the eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood. But, other than the lamb from the Mosaic Passover ritual, there was no apparent blood sacrifice associated with this new covenant at the Last Supper. It is through understanding the Eucharistic nature of the Last Supper that we understand the full sacrificial nature of the Cross. We'll take a look at both aspects of the sacrifice suggested by Jesus at the Last Supper: first, the blood and second, the body.
Jesus equates his blood with the *wine of the Passover Seder, which punctuates the meal by being drunk after each blessing prayer. We don’t have time to get into all of the details here, but suffice it to say that out of the 4 cups of wine associated with the Passover Seder, the final cup, the “cup of praise” is suspiciously absent from the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper.
*In the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus prays that “this cup” pass away from him not once but three separate times. He has just celebrated the Last Supper, in which he identified his own body as the sacrifice of the new Passover. He has also just identified the wine as his own blood, to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins. And in the Garden of Gethsemene, he fervently prays to the Father for the final cup to pass over him.
So, where does this final cup fit into the Passion narrative? *Before he was crucified, Jesus was offered a cup of wine mixed with gall, which was a custom at the time to dull the senses of the condemned and bring about death sooner. Jesus tasted but refused this cup, so it’s not that.
Then, *Jesus was nailed to the cross, and we won’t go into all of the details here, but suffice it to say that it was excruciating to breath, let alone speak. But, Jesus did speak. He spoke seven times, each utterance more agonizing than the last. His penultimate words were “I thirst.” And, instead of ignoring the request of a condemned and crucified criminal, a soldier went through the trouble of soaking a sponge in common wine, sticking it on a sprig of hyssop, and raising to to Jesus on the cross. This wasn’t something Jesus was randomly offered; this was the cup he intentionally requested, and he drank. After Jesus drank, he proclaimed his sacrifice finished, and died.
Here is that fourth and final cup; the cup of our thanksgiving and praise for a God that chose to humble himself enough to become one of us and, even further, to suffer the ignominy of a shameful death; the cup consummating the sacrifice of Jesus’s blood poured out for us, connecting the wine of the Last Supper with Jesus’ blood shed on Good Friday....
To understand the flesh component of the sacrifice, *we again go back to Holy Thursday and the preparations for the Passover meal. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus sends Peter and John to prepare for the Passover, which they would have done by acquiring a lamb and bringing it to the temple complex where a Levitical priest would sacrifice the lamb, drain its blood onto the altar and return the carcass to brought back for roasting and eating.
From historical records, we are told that roughly 250,000 lambs would be sacrificed in this way on this day of the week of Passover. To transport the bodies home for roasting, the lambs’ body would be skinned and staked in a particular way. If you’re a bit squeamish about raw meat, please consider looking away from the screen, *but you’ll notice the positioning of the Paschal Lamb looks familiar to our modern Christian eyes, with one stake splaying the front legs of the lamb horizontally and one stake running vertically down the back. And Peter and John would have witnessed hundreds if not thousands of crucified lambs being carried through Jerusalem the day before Jesus himself was crucified.
You’ll remember from last time that we talked about how a Jewish person could not fully partake of the Passover celebration without eating the flesh of the lamb. *In the same way, we cannot fully partake of the Paschal Mystery without eating the flesh of the Lamb of God. The flesh which Jesus has already revealed is the bread blessed and broken at the Last Supper.
But, all of this begs the question…did the disciples understand all of this as it was happening before their very eyes? How can we, 2,000 years later be confident in this understanding of the Gospel and its Eucharistic relevance?
We learn the beginning of the answer to that question on Easter Sunday on the *Road to Emmaus in the Gospel of Luke. For context, this is after everything the disciples have seen and heard, even after Mary and her companions found Jesus’ tomb empty and the angel proclaimed his Resurrection, so they’ve had the full arc of the Triduum at this point.
In Luke 24:13, we meet two followers of Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, talking about what had just happened. Jesus approached them, and we hear “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” This wasn’t their failure to see but a blindness imposed on them.
When were their eyes opened? Not while he’s walking several miles with them; not while he’s talking with them and teaching them all of Salvation History from Moses through the Prophets, literally preaching the Messianic context of the entire scripture, they don’t recognize him then…In fact, they don’t recognize him until “when he was at table with them, he took the bread, and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” Only then, we read, were their eyes “opened, and they recognized him.”
But then, we read, he vanished from their sight*…leaving what behind? This connection between the body of Christ and the bread is made even more clear later in the chapter, when the disciples discuss *“how Jesus was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” The crucifixion is bookended by the blessing and breaking of a bread that is synonymous with the body of Jesus. This, we read in the Bible, is the way to truly know Jesus.
Remember, that Jesus is one who gives sight to the blind. How does he want us to see him in this new Age of the Church, on this side of the Cross? This encounter at the table after the Road to Emmaus is the moment he chose to re-orient the disciples’ vision to how he will present himself after His ascension. *How else could he keep is promise to remain with them until the end of the age. He’s not talking about sending the Holy Spirit; he’s very clear that the moment of Pentecost will be a future date and that the disciples are supposed to wait for it. Here, Jesus is indicating a present presence, one that can be seen and touched and *tasted. It is in this veiled presence that Jesus will be with us, in every country, in every language, at every Mass, every hour of every day until He comes again in his full glory.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. It is exactly this living, memorial sacrifice of the Mass that we’ll dive into next time. Until then, some thoughts to leave you with...
Since tonight’s theme is mercy, and we’re rounding the corner on Lent, I encourage you to consider the merciful patience of Jesus on the *Road to Emmaus. That, even after all the disciples had seen and heard, the disciples on the road spoke of their belief in Jesus as a past tense hope, a hope that had died with Jesus on the cross. After all Jesus had suffered for them, they still didn’t get it, and neither do we. But this is a mercifully patient God who meets us on that journey and explains the entire history of his plan for us again and again. *This is a mercifully loving Savior who meets us at the altar and, with the nail marks visible in his hands, offers to us again the bread of his body and the wine of his blood so that we can share in the covenant between God and His Church.
I’d like to end by sharing a prayer that’s an adaptation of St. Aquinas’s Adoro te Devote prayer:
*Merciful and loving Jesus, my sight, touch, and taste are all deceived in their judgment of your presence in the Eucharist. But hearing your words is sufficient for me to believe. I believe all the Son of God has spoken: there is nothing truer than this word of Truth. On the Cross only your divinity was hidden. But here, in the Eucharist your humanity is also hidden, veiled from my sight. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Help me to see you. Amen.
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