“They recounted how…he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” This pregnant statement in Luke’s gospel captures something at the heart of what it means to give Christian witness. Jesus’ sharing action at the Emmaus meal had opened their eyes and pulled back a veil on what was really going on. In their recounting of it later, they were summoning up the experience, not as just a hallowed memory but as a life-changing event, something which in fact put them in touch with the very source of life.
It raises the question about similar experiences for us – not necessarily dramatic ones like Paul falling to the ground, but times which lifted that veil and reached down to places deeper than our own depths. Do we have our own memories of “breaking the bread.”
Can you recount events in which you ‘recognized Him?’ Retelling them can chisel foundation stones for Christian witnessing. These the stories of hearts opening to new degrees of God’s intimacy, remembrances of how a word or event pulled back a curtain on the Spirit’s nearness.
The right words can do this. A few sentences of Henri Nouwen were such a breakthrough for me. “This is the truth I want you to claim for yourself. It’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved.’ Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center words that say: ‘I have called you by name. You are mine and I am yours… You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse. Yes, even your child. Wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us.” (Spiritual Direction, p. 32). Recounting them refreshes them.
Those Lukan sentences “I have sent you to bring Good News to the poor, etc.” had a similar grounding effect on Vincent.
Encounters too can be revelatory. In Vincent’s life, there was the confession of the dying peasant which opened the Saint’s eyes to new paths on which to follow his Lord. Centuries later, Frederick Ozanam’s interaction with the destitute people of Paris had a similar breakthrough effect.
Meditative recounting of such experiences can not only reopen us to the Lord’s presence but even draw us in still closer.