Eating and Drinking
by Rev. Paul Scalia
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that
they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet,
that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh
and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his
hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were
amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a
piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them, "These are my words and that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that 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. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."
“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.
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