The appearances of Jesus after his resurrection puzzle us. To be more precise, it is the behaviour of the disciples which is a puzzlement for us. Often, they don’t recognise Jesus. On the road to Emmaus, they speak to him, and have no clue who he is. They recognise only for a moment in the breaking of the bread, but again, already when he departed. At the tomb, a woman called Mary, was puzzled. She was crying and took Jesus to be the gardener. Then again, when Jesus meets them at the lake of Galilee and invites them to eat fish with him, they did not there to ask him who he was, as they ‘knew’ that it was Jesus.
How shall we understand this ‘upsidaisy’ period? The disciples needed time to process what has happened. They needed time to accommodate to the new presence of Jesus. They had to learn to communicate with Jesus – again!
Also, this period, when faith was in ‘fermentation’, they had to reflect on themselves too. They needed assurance that not only it is the same Jesus, but it is their same life, the same discipleship. When Jesus return a week later, it is to assure Thomas that there is complete continuity between the Lord who called him, the Lord who died on the cross, and the Lord who stands before him, inviting him to touch his wounds. Jesus’ encouragement can be translated as this: ‘Be not unbelieving but believing!’ (Jn 20.28) It suggests an ongoing state rather than a momentary decision. Indeed, we need continually ‘evaluate’ how close we are to Jesus. He appears among us on every Sunday…and ‘speaks to the Thomas in us’. Touch me in the Eucharist, when I put my body in your palm of hand, when you drink me, when you eat me… when I sing in you, when you pray to me. Jesus wants to re-focus our life on Him.
My second thought is about this re-adjustment. There is a further answer about how from gradually the disciples arrive to a settled faith in Jesus. In these early days, they do not seem to celebrate the Eucharist among themselves. It was their ‘remembering’ and repeating the breaking of the bread in the Last Supper which made their vision clear. Celebrating the Eucharist is crucial element of our faith. It renews our faith, it re-connects us with the Risen Lord. It nourishes our sense of fellowship in the local church.
Since one of our parishioners has raised the puzzling question, what is ‘kosher food for the Jews’, I have been trying to answer that question ever since. One should not forget that this Easter period of the appearances of Jesus is also the ‘forging’ or the completion of the New Covenant which he established in the Last Supper.
The function of the kosher food in Jewish life is also very helpful in understanding our Christian identity. You know the saying, ‘you are what you eat.’ The Jewish people say that the intellect and religious emotions of a person is a direct outcome of the ‘intake’. They eat kosher food, given by divine instruction, that they feel and think in a refined way, spiritually. In their understanding, kosher and non-kosher food affects their sensitivity or di-sensitisation of their spirituality. If they don’t eat properly, as they say, it causes ‘the closing up of the spiritual arteries to matters of godliness’. To live a higher spiritual existence, to fulfill the special mission to be the light of the nations, it requires a special diet.
This is precisely the function of the Eucharistic meal which we share when we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. As Christians, we do not have the obligation of a ‘kosher meal’ as our daily diet. It is the Sunday Eucharist, our Sunday liturgical meal, which is our kosher food! We eat it for the same reasons: to remain spiritually alive; to remain morally healthy; and to preserve our unique, different identity. Without this weekly gesture of the doubting Thomas (doubting in the sense that he news renewal and rebirth), we disappear in a faceless and drifting sea. Receiving our Lord, we feel, think, and live like him: full of life, facing Life.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..