When I hear the gospel of the disciples on the way to Emmaus, as I did when I proclaimed it this morning, it's hard for me to understand how anyone would want to be a Christian without the Eucharist.
To me the gospels of yesterday (John 20:11-18) and today (Luke 24:13-35) are parallel. Both are resurrection appearances in which the risen Lord is not immediately recognizable, and in which the experience of his presence is somehow fleeting.
To me these passages answer the basic question of the Christian: How may I have an experience of Jesus? The answer from the gospel is clear, at least to me: prayer and sacrament.
Mary Magdalene recognizes the risen Lord when he calls her name. In one instant she goes from thinking he might be the gardener to the certainty that he is her "rabbouni." As it was with Mary, so it is with us. If we want an experience of the risen Jesus (the only Jesus available to us personally and experimentally, by the way) we need to create a space in our lives in which we can hear Him utter our name, calling to each of us as His unique and unrepeatable creations. This space is called prayer.
To the disciples on the way, Jesus is just a friendly stranger. When they offer him hospitality, he breaks the bread for them. Luke's 'take-bless-break-give' makes it obvious that we are talking about the actions of the Eucharist. In these actions by which the risen Jesus offers the bread the Eucharist, he is immediately recognized for Who He Is. In this one of the basic dynamics of Christian spirituality is revealed: prayer, which is the offering of hospitality to Jesus in our hearts, drives us to recognize Him when he offers the Eucharist for us.