Food plays a major role in parish life.
Who can imagine a youth group meeting without snacks? A potluck will almost always draw a large crowd. And many parishes will serve coffee and doughnuts after Sunday Mass, at least once in a while.
Food also played a major role in the life of Jesus and his disciples during his ministry on earth. Sunday’s Gospel reading, Lk 24:35-48, offers us a good example of that.
It begins with the two disciples who encountered the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus recounting to the assembled disciples “how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”
Soon afterwards, the risen Christ appears in their midst. To show that Jesus is flesh and blood and not a ghost, the disciples “gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.”
These two food items in the appearances of the risen Christ stand out because they echo an important miracle in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish and multiplied them to feed the hungry crowd (Mt 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Lk 9:10b-17; Jn 6:1-13).
Notice that this most important event receives attention in all four Gospels. That underlines its significance.
Most of Jesus’ miracles involved healing the sick. In contrast, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish distinguishes itself by addressing another physical need, that for food.
At the same time, it points to our need for spiritual nourishment, which is satisfied by the Eucharist.
In today’s Gospel reading, the risen Christ twice shares a meal with the disciples. Now, in the Eucharist, the risen Christ continues to share a meal with us. That meal looks forward to the banquet feast of heaven.
These Sundays of the Easter season are a favorite time for parishes to hold first Communion. That is altogether appropriate. It is perfect for young people to encounter the risen Christ for the first time, to share a meal with him, as the disciples did so long ago.
This happens, not only for those making their first Communion, but for all of us who receive the bread come down from heaven.
The risen Christ continues to nourish us with his body and blood, the same body which rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.
That is our encounter with the risen Lord, which we can experience again and again.