Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
I grew up virulently anti-Catholic. It wasn’t that we hated individual Catholics. I was taught never to treat anyone poorly, even if they were one of those Biblically illiterate Catholics. Anti-Catholicism was simply in the water we drank.
I did not realize it until later that I was also raised in a debating society. My dad never said a word. How could he? My mom sucked all of the air out of the room. She even debated television shows and movies. I caught the bug honestly. By high school I was debating Catholics.
A funny thing happened after graduate school, serving many years as a minister, and raising a family: I became less and less convinced by words. Sure, I made a living from reading, analyzing, interpreting, and then speaking words. I was all about words. Sometimes those words had power. Sometimes they caused people’s hearts to burn. But too often those words simply fell to the ground with no impact whatsoever. I never could quite understand why.
Then I met two people who changed my life. I did not actually personally meet them, mind you, but I felt the power of their words. Mother Teresa actually said very little, yet there was obvious power in her words. Why? When she spoke, things happened. I also remember being introduced to another person with those famous words, “Habemus papam.” He actually spoke a lot of words but it was the impact of his travels and the way he treated people that made me think that there was a lot more to life than words.
This really should not surprise us when we read about those earliest disciples. They were just like Jesus. Jesus spoke with authority, meaning that things actually happened when he spoke. Peter and John told a man who had been crippled from birth to rise and walk. What a shock it must have been to the people around him to see the man “walking and jumping and praising God.” I remember a commercial from many years ago. “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.” Peter and John were the E.F. Huttons of the early church. When they spoke, not only did people listen, but you just knew that something was going to happen.
After spending thirty years as a minister, I have preached a lot of sermons. Now that I have been Catholic for ten years, I have heard a lot of homilies. My friends have asked me to compare the preaching of my sermons with those homilies. I do not do this for one simple reason: it is impossible to compare them. In the former setting you have powerful sermons and sometimes it causes hearts to burn. But where is Jesus? In the latter, whether or not your heart burns from the homily, Jesus is known in the breaking of the bread. Would I like to hear better homilies? Yes. But I cannot imagine giving up the risen Jesus for a better homily. The homily is not the only words spoken in the Mass. We also hear: “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” Whether or not the homily causes our hearts to burn, when those words of institution are spoken, things happen. Oh to have eyes to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread!
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