Eating and drinking

"Have you anything here to eat?" (Lk 24:41) It seems an unlikely and indeed a curious question from the Risen Lord. The one who triumphed over every form of human torment and even death itself could hardly suffer hunger pangs in His risen body. Yet He asks the question - and for good reason. He asks the question not merely to get something to eat but to teach His disciples about the Resurrection. He did not need any physical nourishment. But they needed to learn.

First, we need to hear Jesus' question within the broader context of the scene. The disciples cannot believe that He is risen, and think they are seeing a ghost (cf. Lk 24:37). He pleads with them to look closely at Him, even to touch Him, to see that He is really, physically risen and present to them (cf. Lk 24:38). Then, in order to overcome their obstinate doubt, He asks for food and eats in front of them. Thus, His question emphasizes the physical resurrection from the dead. He is no mere ghost or apparition or phantom. He has a body, and with that body He can eat.

"Have you anything here to eat?" Jesus' question points us to another aspect of the Resurrection appearances. That He eats "in front of them" reminds us that, in the 40 days between His Resurrection and Ascension, our Lord ate and drank with His disciples. When He appears at the Sea of Tiberias He even prepares breakfast for them. As St. Peter would say sometime later: "This man God raised on the third day and granted that He be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead" (Acts 10:40-41).

Jesus risen from the dead spent time with His disciples. He did not simply appear and then leave. His table fellowship bears witness to this. He ate and drank with them - again, not because He needed physical nourishment but because they needed that communion with Him at table. They needed to re-establish their communion with Him as now risen from the dead. His presence would remove their doubts and strengthen once again their intimacy with Him.

Furthermore, He desired that fellowship with them. God does not do things begrudgingly. And here is a truth that astounds. Even after all the intense events of Holy Week; even after His battle with death, His descent into hell, His triumphant coming back from the underworld; even in His risen body, Jesus shares a simple meal with His disciples. The Gospels contain accounts of extraordinary events after the Resurrection - of earthquakes, angels, sudden appearances and disappearances, etc. But the Risen Christ's ordinary accompaniment - at table with His disciples, eating and drinking with them - is more amazing. The Risen One does not cease to be the one who accompanies us in simplicity. He, triumphant over death and the devil, is still meek and humble of heart. He draws near to us, as He did to the disciples en route to Emmaus.

Further, the sharing of this meal is a distinctive sign of discipleship. Those "who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead" are "the witnesses chosen by God in advance." Learning to know of His simple, humble presence in the ordinary seems to be a prerequisite for bearing witness to Him. Indeed, if we do not know of that presence, we cannot convey it confidently to others.

The ordinary Resurrection meal points us in turn to the Eucharist, that meal that defines and nourishes Christ's witnesses. In the Eucharist, Our Lord is present at the meal, He provides the meal, and He Himself is the meal. It is the crucified and risen Christ, glorified yet still humble, triumphant yet still meek, that we encounter in the Eucharist. And that Resurrection encounter is available to each of us.

Fr. Scalia is Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde's delegate for clergy.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015