A few years ago, I attempted to make bread, and it turned out as soft and fluffy as a brick.
When I recently shared my desire to attempt baking again with Ian, he looked at and said very seriously, “Oh, good, I need a few new pavers for the front yard.” To which we both burst out laughing.
My new quest to learn to bake bread is twofold. One reason is that my Poppi is the most incredible breadmaker I know, and I am inspired by him to be able to bake bread for my own family. The second reason is that bread baking feels so, well, Catholic.
A big part of being Catholic, to me, is creating a home in which Love dwells. Creating a home that feels like a safe haven. Creating a home in which people (family and guests) find peace. Creating a home in which people feel loved. Creating a space for joy. Creating a space for comfort and rest.
Baking bread is an act of love and patience. It is an act of detachment; despite all of the work and preparation, the bread still has a life of its own (that yeast is a pretty cool thing).
Baking bread fills a home with the smell of comfort. Smells that bring memories of goodness and joy.
A loaf of bread that has turned out well is also a beautiful sight. Warm golden crust, crisp to the tap.
Most of all, though, a loaf of warm bread set in the middle of the table, ready to be cut, is a centerpiece for encountering Jesus in our homes.
The readings during the Easter season show us how the disciples come to know the Risen Jesus not in lofty, otherworldly experiences, but in the breaking of bread. Recall the two disciples who encounter Jesus as they journey to Emmaus. Jesus has just died three days prior. As his friends walk, they are processing his death. They believed that he was the Son of God; they put all of their hope in him, and seeing him nailed to the cross was shattering. The Risen Jesus meets them on the road to Emmaus, and starts talking with them, but they don’t recognize him. When the disciples and Jesus arrive at Emmaus as evening approaches, the disciples invite Jesus to stay with them.
And here it is–
“And it happened that, while he (Jesus) was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight… So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24: 30-35)
The disciples come to know and believe in the Risen Jesus through a shared meal. Jesus breaking bread brings back memories of meals shared; memories of conversations had around the table, laughter passed from one to another, friendship and faith fostered as drinks were drunk and bellies became full.
So it is in our lives.
We encounter the Risen Christ as we open our homes to each other and gather around the table. We encounter the Risen Christ as we share our lives- our joys, our worries, our hopes, our frivolities- with each other. We encounter the Risen Christ as we cut through that crusty loaf of bread, spread some butter on it, and pass it around to each other. And just like the disciples, we leave the table filled with the joy that only Jesus brings.