The Third Sunday of Easter
April 18, 2021
O God, whose blessed Son did manifest himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open, we pray thee, the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 John 1:1–2:2
Over the years, on more than one occasion, I have discussed with you the relationship between eating—specifically, sharing meals—and experiencing the Resurrection. When we aren’t limited by pandemic restrictions, I particularly enjoy our small Eucharist in the Lady chapel on Wednesday in Easter Week, when we read the story of the meeting on the road to Emmaus.
I always love having the opportunity to relive the chance meeting along that road of the two disciples with Jesus, whom they did not recognise; to hear the two extend to the stranger-Jesus an invitation to dine with them; to see Jesus take, bless, and distribute the bread and to hear how, in that very instant, they suddenly saw exactly who he was. And it always strikes me as so funny and so true-to-life that the disciples then claimed to have known all along it was Jesus. I appreciate the story of the road to Emmaus because it says so many fundamental things about both human nature and the nature of God in Christ. It reminds us of how we recognise when Jesus is present with us and how we experience, at the most fundamental level, the Resurrection. In and through an invitation to share table fellowship, share a meal, break bread we experience Jesus, our guest, become Jesus the Host. Jesus, a stranger to the men before the meal, becomes present and known to them when he takes, blesses, and breaks the bread. The risen Christ, then, is recognised and become present when his disciples sit down at table, allowing us to be transformed in that moment into members of his very body, possessed of new and keener sight.
In this lectionary cycle we do not get to hear the story of the meeting on the road to Emmaus on a Sunday. That’s for next year. But we still get a post-resurrection eating story: the one with broiled fish we just heard. So today, once again the disciples were gathered together in the wake of the Crucifixion, still not sure what was really going on, and all of a sudden, without warning or fanfare:
Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
As in the story of Thomas we heard last week, Jesus invites these privileged few to touch him so they may believe. Again, as in the story of Thomas, we are not told whether people touched him or not, nevertheless they “still disbelieved for joy, and wondered.”
Jesus then seemingly changed the subject and “said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’” What a strange question that must have seemed. Here before them was someone, something that seemed to be Jesus, wounds and all, back from the dead, and he was asking for food. Luke tells us, however, that they immediately and without question “gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.”
Then he said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
While eating before them, eating with them—I presume—Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” While eating with them, while at table with them, he proclaimed the Good News of his life, death, and resurrection and told them that they were “witnesses of these things,” that they were able, from this time on, to give testimony about what had happened to them and to the world. After sharing the meal with Jesus, they were equipped to go out and preach the Gospel and do likewise, likewise as Luke reported earlier in his story, to share other meals, share them in remembrance of him.
Again and again in the days and weeks following his resurrection, Jesus joins his disciples at table. A guest, he becomes the host, and as that Host he becomes known and present to them. His presence strengthens them, gives them faith—which is trust, confidence, knowledge—so that they will persevere and tell his story and share more meals with others. Meal by meal, table by table, the disciples helped God change the world, brought Jesus’ presence into the homes, into the lives of more and more people. The body of Christ grew, meal after meal. The Body of Christ grew organically as more and more people met Jesus at table, at first in those nourishing early ritual meals of bread and fish, bread and wine, even bread and milk. The Body of Christ continues to grow in and through the meal we share every week at this table, our Eucharistic, thanksgiving filled meal of bread and wine.
From time to time one hears an item that claims that fewer and fewer Americans actually sit down and share meals together. I am not sure whether this is realty true or not, and I don’t know what effect a year of pandemic restrictions has had. Nevertheless, I do believe that most people have lost the connection between the meals we share together at home, in restaurants, on picnics, with the meal in which Jesus becomes present to us here in Church. I also believe that we can all too easily forget, when we are in the midst of Mass, the connection between the one here in which Jesus becomes present in the bread and wine and those meals that nourish our physical bodies.
As we begin to re-emerge from those pandemic restrictions, start eating more regularly with people from outside our little bubbles, return to church and the Eucharistic meal, that we can reclaim the connection between the Eucharist and all our other meals. I hope that each of us can come to see Eucharist in our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, especially those we share with others; to see how the Eucharist began as a meal, at a table, at which the disciples really and truly came to know the presence of their risen Lord “in the breaking of Bread,” or even in the sharing of a piece of fish. Our ability to recognise this essential connection is a significant step on our journey to sanctify all aspects of our lives, and live in closer relationship, deeper bonds of love, with God in Christ and with each other. Deeper Eucharistic sharing with each other at all times helps bring us closer to that time when, as Micah tells us
they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.
Andrew Charles Blume✠
New York City
17 April 2021
© 2021 Andrew Charles Blume