The Presence Of The Risen Lord In Today's World
Sunday of Week 3 in Eastertide
Acts. 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 Jn. 2:1-5 & Lk. 24:35-48
In celebrating the Resurrection we marvel, not only at the fact of the event, but also at the transforming effect it had on the disciples. Each time the risen Jesus appeared to His disciples, there was a gradual and predictable pattern of recognition. Initially, on seeing Him they did not recognize Him: they mistook Him for someone else, perhaps a gardener, or a visitor, or even a ghost as in today’s Gospel passage.
Then He gave them one or more signs by which to recognize Him. In fact, in today’s reading, He gives them two: the sign of the suffering He had endured, as shown by the marks on His hands and feet, and the sign of a meal, as shown by His eating a piece of grilled fish. These give us clues about two important ways in which we recognize Him in today's world.
The first is that Jesus is present in a very special way in those who are suffering in one form or another, be it physical, psychological or spiritual. The Church is the Body of Christ and, therefore, whenever there is suffering the marks of Christ’s wounds are visible. This is true whether the person suffering is ourselves, someone we know or a stranger, and irrespective of whether it is because of illness, bereavement, broken relationships, persecution by others, the effects of war, or natural causes such as famine and earthquake. Paradoxically, when faced with suffering, we tend to think the Lord as being so far away. And yet, by showing His hands and feet, the Lord actually reminds us that He is there, right in the midst of the suffering.
Very often it is only after the event, after we have emerged from the suffering, that we look back on it and recognize its transforming effect on our lives. This is what happened to the apostles. When Jesus underwent His Passion and Death, they experienced such painful demoralization that they came so close to despair. It is only when Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection, and gave an explanation of the events, that they were able to understand the meaning of His suffering. He opened their minds to understand the scriptures, saying, “So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” His suffering was thus part of God’s glorious plan for the salvation of mankind. The resurrection of Christ should open our minds, therefore, to understand the meaning of our own suffering and that of others.
The second sign by which the apostles recognize Jesus is the meal. This is a symbol of the Eucharist which is the sacrificial meal of the Christian community. It is in the Eucharist that the risen Jesus is most fully present in His body, blood, soul and divinity. It is in the Eucharist that He fulfils, in the most unique way, His promise to be with us until the end of time. Through the Eucharist, which is celebrated day after day and week after week, the risen Jesus is just as present to us today, in whichever country we live, as He was to those first disciples in Palestine. He is present in the Eucharist as the sacrificial Victim Who takes our sins away.
As St. John says in the second reading, none of us is without sin, all of us fall short of God’s commandments, and if we say that we are without any sin, we are downright liars. But the awareness of our sinfulness should not make us despondent: by the sacrifice which Jesus offered of Himself to the Father, God’s forgiveness is freely available to all of us. No matter how dreadful our sins might be the Lord asks us to repent of them, by turning to Him and confessing them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and make a sincere effort to avoid the sins in the future. This is the Good News of the Easter Proclamation, repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ, which continues to be preached to all the nations of the world almost 2,000 years after the Resurrection.
So may the Holy Spirit open our eyes to see the risen Jesus truly present in all our sufferings and in the Eucharistic meal.