Breaking Bread and Being Sent as the Face of Jesus

Once again we hear of an appearance of the risen Jesus to the disciples. The encounter once again brings them excitement and reassurance. Additionally, as so often is the case, the disciples find themselves called to mission, to service and sacrifice for others. In other words, they are to be bearers of the risen Jesus to others. Recognizing this presence of Jesus, the disciples become the Body of Christ continuing in our world.

Looking at John’s gospel this Sunday we encounter several very striking aspects of the appearances of the risen Jesus. One of these is captured in the remark of Peter: “I’m going fishing.” So simple, so ordinary. It hardly seems to hold a place in a spiritual reflection or the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What could it possibly have to do with an appearance of the risen Jesus?

But perhaps it says a lot, has great weight. Imagine these disciples. In John’s telling of the story, we find the disciples after the crucifixion. They are beginning to sense that somehow Jesus remains present among them, within their experience. They cannot figure out or say how, but Jesus remains with them. He continues to be their master, teacher and leader.

At another level, however, life goes on. They sleep, they eat, they continue to work as they did before. They go fishing. In the midst of these routines of life, the disciples find that they encounter Jesus again. It occurs in a way both ordinary and extraordinary. They recognize Jesus among them at breakfast, at the end of a night of fishing. Jesus’ presence becomes evident as they share this meal of bread and fish. So simple, so ordinary.

From another perspective, the presence of Jesus becomes clear for them in something quite extraordinary. If we were to look at the Acts of the Apostles we would find the writer describing the life of the first communities of Christians. One of the things that the writer points out was that the early Christians came together for the “breaking of the bread.” (Acts 2:42-47)

The disciples in John’s gospel recognize the risen Jesus at a meal. This is our own experience. Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper has been our point of gathering from the time of our earliest ancestors in the faith. Here, at the table, the Table of the Lord, we recognize who we are as a community of faith, a community of disciples. It is at Eucharist that we are drawn together to express our love, our care and our compassion for one another. It is from this gathering that we go forth to share the good news of God’s compassionate love for all humanity.

At Eucharist, like those first disciples around a charcoal fire, sharing a meal, we recognize that Jesus continues to be among us. “Breaking bread” together expresses our recognition that we become the “Body of Christ” sent forth into our world with words and actions of good news.

The Table of the Lord, sharing communion is not a destination for us. Rather it is a beginning. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are told by Pope Francis that Jesus Christ is the face of God’s mercy.[1] As disciples of Jesus, from this Table we are sent forth into the world to be the face of Jesus, the face of mercy and compassion in our world.

[1] From Francis I: Document Calling for Jubilee Year of Mercy 1