Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Easter. Notice that it isn’t the third Sunday AFTER Easter, but the third Sunday OF Easter. The Easter mystery is so powerful and so rich that one day is not enough to plumb the depths of its meaning. We continue to celebrate and reflect upon “this Easter day” for 50 days (and on every Sunday after that).
This period is also a time of mystagogia for the newly baptized — a time to “unpack” their experience of the initiation sacraments celebrated at the Easter Vigil and deepen their incorporation into the faith community. The Sunday readings help them and all of us to understand the mystery of new life and the meaning of Christ’s resurrection. The Gospels of Easter contain accounts of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances; the Acts of the Apostles recount stories of the disciples’ witness to the Risen Lord in time of persecution; and the symbolic language from the Book of Revelation describe the church’s understanding of the Kingship of Christ.
Today’s Gospel describes the miraculous catch of fish by the disciples and Jesus’ action of preparing a breakfast of bread and fish. Since the event occurs after the resurrection, we see the church’s growing understanding of Christ’s presence in the symbol of a meal.
In the early church, the Eucharist was often celebrated in the context of the “Agape” meal. Members of the community would bring food and share a supper, and the Eucharist was celebrated at the end of the gathering. The practice of the Agape meal seems to have ended around 360 AD.
When we gather for the Eucharist, the meal is celebrated through sign and symbol, but one in which Christ is truly present. We are reminded that Christ is present in the community that gathers to pray and sing, in the priest who acts in the person of Christ, in the Word that is proclaimed, and especially in the consecrated elements of bread and wine (Sacrosanctum Concilium 7).
As we approach the table to receive Christ, we bow our heads as an expression of reverence and extend our hands (or our tongue) to accept the body and blood of the Lord. The act of “receiving” is significant. We do not “take” but rather we “receive and accept” what is offered to us — the body of Christ. The ministers of holy Communion carefully place the host in our cupped hands or on our tongue as we approach and return reverently and slowly, conscious of the great gift which Christ offers to us.
Sr. Rehrauer is the director of Evangelization and Worship for the Diocese of Green Bay.