We are a people who live in the shadow of the empty tomb. Throughout this Easter season, we experienced an amazed, bewildered, puzzled and doubtful community of believers. We now walk with Jesus throughout the days leading to His Ascension. Christ takes extra effort to demonstrate to His followers that He has really risen. Remember, He appears before them in a locked room, shows the wounds by which He was crucified and He asks for something to eat. It is difficult for them to wrap their minds around the fact of the Resurrection and what it means for not only their Lord Jesus, but also, what it means for them. One thing is certain: their lives have radically changed. The Resurrection was a transformative event. Now Jesus takes the time before His Ascension to reinforce His teaching and witness His presence to His followers.
Apparently, His appearances are unannounced, and the material world no longer places limitations on Him. For those who hope to explain the theory of Resurrection through the sense of mass hysteria, it’s a difficult stretch in logic because the appearances are so vastly different (Emmaus, the locked room, the seaside) and the disciples come to a sense of peace, not eternal turmoil. The appearances of Jesus recorded in sacred Scriptures are but a few of the actual works of Jesus during the post-Resurrection era. As St. John states (John 20:30-31): “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, but they are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through this belief, you may have life in His name.” The material world is now given to us to make all things new in Christ.
The wounds of the Resurrected Jesus are an important sign to believers that as Christ suffered and died for us, we also must carry the crosses given to us as we journey through life. I have often shared with individuals that we cannot arrive at the empty tomb except through the cross.
There is a delightful story about the angels having a mass celebration in heaven when it is announced that Jesus is on His way. The angels gather at the open gate to welcome the Son of God and as He approaches on the road, the Archangel Gabriel shouts aloud, “Close the gates!” The angels immediately closed the gates in bewilderment and they asked the Archangel why they closed the gates on Jesus. Because, he replied, that was not Jesus. It was possibly a pretender, perhaps Satan, but not Jesus. How did you know, they asked; it looked like Jesus, and the archangel responded, because He did not have the wounds of the cross. The identifying marks of Jesus represent the unconditional love the Father has for us all. The Son of God sacrificed His life in love for us.
There is a term that people will use when experiencing especially trying times in their lives, “I will offer it up.” When we intentionally join our individual sufferings to that of Christ on the cross, the Resurrection now becomes a possibility that unites the suffering to the cross, making things new in the life of Christ.
In asking for something to eat, Jesus demonstrates to His followers that He is not a ghost. Ghosts don’t eat; real people eat. In sharing a meal with His disciples, He implicitly is affirming to them that he will provide the food necessary for life, that food will be His life itself the bread and wine, which becomes His flesh and blood. Christians will feed from the word and works of the Lord. And they came to know Him in the breaking of the bread. We will acknowledge that every time we see an individual living a selfless life for the sake of the other, we will also see another Christ. Gandhi once said that there are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread. Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall never hunger and he that believes in me shall never thirst.” Unfortunately, Gandhi did not realize that the bread that came down from heaven was the Son of God, whose life is given to feed all of humanity. This is the significance of St. Thomas’ statement, “My Lord and my God,” repeated by believers when approaching the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.
It is critical for us to examine the Resurrection in light of our lives. What does the Resurrection mean for us? In the light of our spiritual dimension, our earthly lives are merely the beginning. During this Easter season, take the time to examine the readings presented by the Church. Although many do not continue to attend daily Mass, a practice for many during the Lenten season, what we can do is study the daily readings. A work to assist in that study is a work authored by Most Rev. Richard Sklba and Rev. Joseph Juknialis called Easter Fire (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2016). It was created to assist homilists during the daily Easter season. But, it can serve as a great formational tool in incorporating the themes of Easter for all who wish to deepen their understanding of the resurrected Jesus. From the Monday of the Octave of Easter, the authors write: “Being a believer can at times feel like being sidelined, as if one is out of step with the rest of what is going on around us. Slowly, however, if one is faithful, one begins to hear a different tune being sung and a different rhythm at the heart of life. It is the spirit of the risen Christ that has found a home in us, then a voice to which we have stopped to listen, a new person who has taken over our lives.”
We cannot deny He lives.