Breaking bread Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9; 1 Jn 2:1-5; Lk 24:35-48 One of the most striking effects of the pandemic is on our human need to break bread with family and friends. Family dinners, admittedly, can have their own tensions at times, but how often have we heard people lamenting the fact that they can’t bring their family together for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner? We all know there is a pent up urge everywhere for restaurants to open so friends can gather even though there still may be a risk in doing so. It is striking how sharing a meal together is part of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels. That is particularly true of Luke’s Gospel, one of whose resurrection appearance stories we hear this Sunday. One interpreter of Luke’s Gospel observed, only with a slight exaggeration, that you “could eat your way through Luke’s Gospel.” There are the meals Jesus has with his disciples; meals in the house of his opponents; meals for crowds on the hillside; Passover meals; meals and wedding feasts that are frequently the settings of his parables. That is certainly the case with the Gospel we hear today. It is introduced by the testimony of the two disciples who earlier left Jerusalem for the village of Emmaus, disillusioned by Jesus’ death. Who can forget Luke’s story in which a mysterious stranger joins them, and by opening the Scriptures to them, sets their hearts on fire with understanding and joy? They are not sure of this stranger’s identity until they persuade him to dine with them, and “in the breaking of the bread,” they recognize it is the risen Christ in their midst. That is their testimony after they return to Jerusalem and report to the other disciples. At that very moment, the risen Jesus appears with his message of “peace.” Again, the impact of Christ’s presence is to soothe the disciples’ troubled hearts. Once again, Luke treats us to a meal with the risen Christ. Jesus first shows them his wounded hands and feet, which is a remarkable sign that we also saw in last week’s appearance of the risen Christ proclaimed by John’s Gospel. There is a subtle difference in purpose between the two accounts. In John’s Gospel the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and the spear wound in his side are emblems of his unimpeachable act of love in giving his life for his friends. In Luke, the risen Jesus displays his wounds in his hands and feet to assure the astounded disciples that it really is he, Jesus of Nazareth now triumphant over death. He has a transformed body and eats with them again, as he had during his ministry with them. Understandably, they were “incredulous for joy and were amazed.” Jesus asks a question that every family has heard from relatives and friends: “Have you anything here to eat?” They offer him a piece of baked fish and he “ate it in front of them.” What a remarkable scene this is. It fits into the overall message of Luke’s Gospel and its carryover into the Acts of the Apostles. The very spirit of Jesus is love embodied — not abstract or distant. It is a love that reaches out to others and feeds them physically and spiritually, and gives a home to the homeless and a sense of safety and belonging to those who are desperate and alone. It is the same human dream we all long for in working to build and protect our families. In the opening chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, this is the way Luke describes the impact of Jesus’ resurrection. The early Christians gather in their homes and break bread together, sharing their resources with those in need, striving to be of “one mind and one heart” (an ancient way of describing genuine friendship). This is the mission that the risen Jesus gives his disciples at the end of today’s Gospel passage: They are to “preach in Jesus’ name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” The Christian message is to be proclaimed not just in words but in the witness of love and service we give to each other.