“I could eat,” is my favorite response to the question “Are you hungry?” I like this response because of how much I appreciate the act of taking a meal. There is something human about having a meal or sharing food with someone. Also it acknowledges the truth that sharing a meal and physical hunger are only weakly correlated. A meal is about so much more than simply meeting a caloric need.
My family of origin and the family I married into understand the importance of sharing food. Okay that may be the understatement of the week for me. When I broke some rules and got in trouble my senior year of high school my punishment was that I had to be home for dinner every single night of the week. What genius. It was a painful punishment for an active and social high school kid and by it’s very nature I reconnected and my family sought to heal the broken relationship caused by my breaking of trust.
In the gospel reading this Sunday we hear about another appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Jesus shows them his wounds and then asks for some food. They give him a baked fish and he eats in front them. What a strangely specific detail. Why would Luke include this aspect of the event? I think it is because of the importance for two things: Jesus’ bodily resurrection and the effects of sharing a meal. And I think they are related.
It would be easy to misunderstand the resurrection. I think most of our culture does. It is assumed that Jesus was kind of like a ghost or some sort of spirit when he appeared to the disciples. The gospel writers go out of their way to demonstrate this isn’t the case. Jesus was physically, bodily resurrected. Luke even says the disciples thought he was a ghost, showing that they knew he was truly dead. Then they physically touch Jesus and even watch him eat food. Spirits don’t eat. Spirits don’t have wounds you can touch. Jesus does. The dead man really is alive again.
Jesus eats more than once while appearing to his disciples. He eats cooked fish and breaks bread with his disciples. He wants to show them that sharing a communal meal is at the very center of Christian community. He want to show us that sharing a meal is at the center of our faith community as well. It is in these meals that Jesus’ identify is revealed to to those who don’t recognize him. It is in this meals that the reality of his bodily resurrection is confirmed. The post resurrection meals recorded in the gospels matter to the Church and to our faith.
Mass isn’t extra. It isn’t nice that we get to do it (I mean, it is). Mass, a shared meal, is necessary for the Christian life. Mass is where we most vividly encounter the resurrected Jesus! Our communal meal is where we are fed and fortified and prepared to go try and save the world. Mass is where we realize our faith in the Father, resurrected Son, and Holy Spirit is real. Live it: Go to Mass. I get it. It may have been a while. You may not be going out to eat or going to Costco, traveling, or going to kids sporting events – in other words, avoiding crowds are all costs. But make this the first thing you do when you come back. You need Mass.