Third Sunday of Easter B – Have you anything here to eat?
April 18, 2021.
This Third Sunday of Easter let us focus on the eucharistic experience of Jesus’ resurrection. The season of Easter was always used in the early church to instruct newly baptized people in the sacraments which they were now able to receive. This practice is still carried on today in many churches, including us Catholics. It is helpful, because all of us need to be reminded of the meaning of our sacramental relationship with God in the Eucharistic.
In the Gospel reading (Luke 24:35-48), Jesus said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” What a familiar saying, especially for moms. That’s what kids say the first thing coming home from school before putting their school bags down. Jesus was just like little kids. No wonder He told the disciples before, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. But perhaps we need to pay attention to what happens next. Then He said to them, “everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
The sharing of food with the disciples was one of the primary elements of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. He had supper with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. When he said the blessing and broke the bread, they recognized him in this act (Luke 24:13-35). On another occasion, after fishing all night, the disciples saw Jesus on the shore. They joined him there where he fed them breakfast (John 21:12). Food and the resurrection are also tied up together in the gospels. Scholars debate whether the church’s emphasis on the Eucharist led to feeding stories about the resurrection — or, if stories about food and the resurrection led the church to emphasize on the Eucharist. We can leave the scholars to carry on that “chicken or egg” debate and simply recognize that the Eucharist is central to our experience of Jesus. It is so central that at the Baptism of new Christians, the sacrament of Holy Communion is their first experience of being one of God’s people. We have been watching episodes of eating habits in different cultures on Youtube and recognize that the most universal way human beings have of establishing and maintaining relationships is in shared meals. So it is no surprise that after the resurrection, Jesus would be sharing meals with his friends. Our Easter proclamation shows that these two actions — eucharistic experience of Jesus and building relationship in meals — are deeply related. Whether we are celebrating happy events like birthdays and weddings or grieving together at funerals, we get together with family and friends to have food and drink to be joyful together or to cry together to support each other. In the church’s liturgy we express the same relationship, such as under the shadow of Jesus’ impending death on Maundy Thursday, and in the joy of his resurrection in the Easter Vigil.
We must eat together to be human and to become human. We must also, it appears, eat together to know God. In the great story of salvation told in the Scriptures, food plays a very important role. Food and drink can be an occasion for sin, for separation from God and from others. Remember, the human fall into sin was caused by a misuse of food. The first murder of Abel by Cain was occasioned by a difference over which kind of food was a better offering to God. Israel’s rebellion against God in the wilderness was over their need for food and their doubt as to whether God could set up a table in the wilderness. Satan’s first temptation of Jesus was to urge him to ease his hunger by turning stones into bread. Judas was revealed as Jesus’ betrayer when he dipped his bread in the dish after Jesus.
Food and drink are involved in many stories in the Scriptures before the death and resurrection. Remember that in that first garden there was a second tree, a tree giving eternal life. God removed the first people from the garden after they sinned, lest they eat of that tree also and as a result live forever in sin. (Genesis 2:4 -3:24). As Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality in feeding three strangers found themselves entertaining the angels of God (Genesis 18:1-15), so we are called to feed and nurture the strangers in our midst — and thereby meet God. God, in spite of Israel’s rebellion in the wilderness, feeds the people with manna and quenches their thirst with water from the rock. (Exodus 16:4) Jesus feeds five thousand with one boy’s picnic lunch of bread and fish. (John 6:1-14). And at the last supper before he suffered, he institutes the Holy Eucharist (Luke 22). And now there is bread and wine in the Eucharist. When we gather for Eucharist, we bring those elements together. In the shared meal called Holy Communion, our human capacity to remember, to learn, and to relate to others in meals aids us in knowing the risen Saviour. The culmination of God’s plan for humanity and, indeed, for the entire creation is described at the end of the Bible as a wedding feast which will last forever and to which all humanity is invited. (Revelation 19:7-10)
Whenever in the Church, don’t feel embarrassed being like a kid coming home from school to ask “Have you anything here to eat?” Yes, it’s all you can eat. There’s even a red light to tell us the holy meal is ready to serve in the “fridge”, the tabernacle. In this holy meal we know Jesus in his resurrection to be our Lord and God. In this holy meal we recall that we are the members of his risen body in the world. But this meal gives us one more aspect of God’s saving plan, we discover that we are called to do for all people what God has done for us. As Jesus fed the multitude with one child’s lunch, so we are personally to give out of what we have for the feeding of others. And, as a society, we are to redirect our nation’s material goods to feed, educate, and heal a hungry world.
So, the ultimate sign of God’s peace and the ultimate sign of the completion of God’s plan for the universe is a great banquet. We are called to make our own lives, our homes, our churches signs of that great feast which is yet to come. We are to provide, for all people, the welcome into our communities which foreshadows the feasting to which the entire human race is called. We are, as members of the church, to be the body of Christ broken for the world, feeding all the hungers of the human race. As St. Augustine put it in an Easter sermon: “You are the body of Christ. In you and through you the work of the incarnation must go forward. You are to be taken; you are to be blessed, broken, and distributed; that you may be the means of grace and the vehicles of the eternal charity.”
Let us resolve today to make the Eucharist a priority in our lives. Let Jesus transform our hearts. Let us be a Holy Vessel of Christ and a light to shine in a world that is filled with darkness. If we are to be the Light of Christ to others we must come and receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist with humility and surrender.