“And while they still disbelieved for joy and wondered, he said to them, ‘Have you anything to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate before them”. Luke 24: 41-43
Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla writes for Rorate Caeli –– The Gospel for Easter Tuesday is a continuation of yesterday’s Gospel which was the appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus and the recognition of Jesus “in the breaking of the bread”, an allusion to the Eucharist. In today’s Gospel Jesus appears to the Eleven. Our Lord knew that his disciples still had trouble believing that the man they knew and loved had truly risen from the dead. So he appears to them in the place where they were gathered. And Luke says: “They supposed that they saw a spirit”. In other words they thought they were seeing Jesus’ ghost. Jesus then offers them to touch him, and to feel the wounds in his hands, feet and side. “For a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have”. This is the same Jesus who talked with them, ate with them, the man that they loved, and that reality has to include his bo dy, a body transformed in the Resurrection but still that body the disciples knew.
Jesus at this point sees that the disciples still are unconvinced and asks: “Have you anything here to eat?’ So they gave him a piece of broiled fish and he ate it before them. Now this does not mean that the glorified body of Jesus had need of food. But what this act, the eating of the broiled fish in the presence of the Eleven, showed them is that there is a radical bond between Jesus’ body before and after the Resurrection. It is the SAME Jesus. St. John of Damascus comments: “He puts aside all passions, for he does not need food but only uses it to show that he has risen in his body”. And that body shows clearly the wounds he suffered on the Cross. St. Ambrose says: “The very wounds that Jesus shows his disciples are the wounds he will show the Father in heaven as trophies of our salvation.”
Of course, this meal, just as the “breaking of bread” at Emmaus, is a reference to the Eucharist. It is Jesus showing his disciples how he will be with them and the Church in the celebration of Holy Mass. And that his presence in the Eucharist is not merely spiritual—although it is—but is also bodily. Christ is present in the Sacred Species of the Consecrated Bread and Wine just as he was present to the disciples at Emmaus, in the Upper Room, and in those several mysterious but intensely real encounters like the one in today’s Gospel.
But we must remember this: the purpose of his Real Presence in the Eucharist is not only for Holy Communion. We have forgotten that what Jesus did at the Last Supper and what he told his disciples to do—in “memory” of me (that word memory is too weak a word in English to convey what it deeply means)—is the same act as the Sacrifice of the Cross. Holy Thursday and Good Friday commemorate the same act—the saving act of God—in two different ways: one sacramental, one in time and space. It is the offering of the Son to the Father for the forgiveness of sins in the Mass that is the heart of the matter, which then allows us to approach the altar to receive his true Body and Blood. In the Traditional Roman Mass, the bell rings after the priest receives the Sacred Species, for this marks the completion of the Sacrifice. Then comes the invitation to the people to receive Holy Communion.
In this time of suffering and death in our world, we thank God, that despite the terrible deprivation of not being able to worship God on Sunday in the Mass, the Holy Mass is offered every day by every priest, and the grace of those Masses is poured out on all of us who believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, and who said: ”Lo, I am with you even to the end of the world.”