A reflection for the third Sunday of Easter

Joseph Malham reflects on the readings for April 14, 2024.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year B):

Acts 3:13 – 15, 17 – 19
Psalms 4:2, 4, 7 – 8, 9
1 John 2:1 – 5a
Luke 24:35 – 48

Reflection: The fruit of recognition

Today’s gospel, from Luke, continues with the recurring post-Easter theme of Eucharist and discipleship. Christ, broken and offered for us, rises triumphantly out of the tomb, and remains with us as bread and wine in the bloodless re-presentation of calvary. This is the heart of the paschal mystery revealed to us now—but how was it manifested in those first anxious and uncertain days after the resurrection? As we see today in the upper room, as we do in several post-resurrection scriptural passages, it is through fear, food, and the recognition of Jesus in a meal.

The gospel reading begins with the disciples, cowering in the upper room, recounting to the others their story about the trip to Emmaus and their recognition of Christ in the person of the strange pilgrim when he broke the bread at table. No sooner have they finished their astounding tale than Jesus again appears. The disciples, afraid they see a ghost, only believe when he eats before them. Later, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the kind stranger making breakfast as the disciples bring in an abundant harvest of fish (again linking Eucharist to discipleship) is revealed yet again to be Jesus present at the meal.

This intersection, where the collision of food and fear result in the recognition of Jesus fully present with us is, I believe, perfectly manifested in Caravaggio’s 1606 masterpiece, The Supper at Emmaus. It shows the moment, the description of which opens today’s gospel, when the disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of bread. The fruit of this recognition is not in the disciples’ archly operatic gestures of shock or the puzzled indifference of the waiter with his “what’s going on here” attitude, but, appropriately enough, in the basket of fruit teetering on the edge of the table about to tumble off. A closer examination of the soon-to-be-tumbling basket reveals the fruit inside is spotted, rotted, and withering away. It is a perfect metaphor for when we recognize Jesus present in the Eucharist. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus our minds are opened to God’s truth. Like those in the upper room we lose our fear and, later, like those on the beach we recalibrate our lives away from ourselves to mission and ministry to others.


And like the basket of tumbling fruit, everything that once satisfied us, that was oh-so-sweet and tempting, becomes nothing more than ephemeral stuff rotting away. Jesus upsets the tables in our lives, sending all that is not of God flying over the edge and nourishing us instead with the word made flesh that is true food. When our own hearts then burn, it is not the effects of rotting food but the recognition that that which is broken on the altar is the one who was broken on the cross.

Then, like the centurion, and the good thief on Calvary, like the disciples in the upper room and later, on the shore of the sea, our hearts cry: “It is the Lord!”

About the author

Joseph Malham

Joseph Malham is an iconographer and author currently living in Chicago. He is the author of three books and for 20 years was the artist in residence at St. Gregory the Great Church in Chicago.

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