April 18, 2021  

Our Gospel begins with the closing line of Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on their way to Emmaus, about 7 miles northwest of Jerusalem.  Their story, emphasized three points: 1. that Jesus truly was raised from the dead, indeed ‘had’ to die and enter into his glory’, 2. that the Scriptures of Israel, if understood properly foretold this resurrection from the dead, and 3. Jesus was recognized ‘in the breaking of the bread’, a symbol of the Eucharist celebrated already for decades before Luke wrote.  These two disciples of Emmaus returned to Jerusalem, eager to tell others of their experience with the risen Jesus, and no longer disheartened or disillusion about the true meaning of the Lord they had followed for so long.

Our Gospel story today puts us in the upper room where the disciples are gathered and hear the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.  Now Jesus stands in their midst (a position of friendship) and blesses them through words bringing them peace.  This is a peace after all the turmoil of the crucifixion, but also a peace between God and His creatures.  Jesus’ appearance starts off a reaction captured in a few verses.  The disciples are startled and terrified, logically so since they do not see before them the physical Jesus they knew, but a ghost of him.  [That they see a ‘ghost’ suggests that they believed there was an afterlife, though hardly the fullness of life Jesus’ resurrection, body and soul, suggests.]  The disciples’ amazement and consternation lead Jesus to pose questions and offer invitations; Luke intends here to argue the reality of the resurrection from personal touch and sight.  

Touch will show the reality of his risen body; sight will recognize the terrible holes in his hands and feet which show that this body is the body that hung on the cross just a short time ago.  Indeed, Jesus will go further and show he has a body by eating fish in front of them.  That the resurrected Jesus had a body, touchable, visible, was confounding for all the decades after Jesus’ death.  Well, before Luke, Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 15) somewhat exasperatedly reviewed the resurrection of Jesus from two directions: first, Paul argues that Jesus actually rose from the dead, and that eye-witness of the risen Jesus is just one type of argument in his favor; second, granted that Jesus is no longer dead, one should know that he is risen bodily from the grave.  Truth be told, Paul does not (cannot) perfectly describe a risen body, but he offers an argument which is of great value.  He notes that we get light from sun, moon and stars, but he further notes their different shapes and sizes.  Why, if their function is the same, i.e. to give light, are they so different in measurements?  His answer is that each one – sun, moon, star – has a ‘body’ suited to its singular purpose: the sun has its size to give the powerful light to all the world, the moon gives a lesser light and so is fashioned to do just that, and so, we can argue, that each star have a form suited to its particular luminary function.  So then, Paul argues, the risen person will have a body suited to the life with God that is so different from the body we need in this life.  What Luke adds to this kind of thinking is that the body Jesus has for life with his Father will, when necessity demands, carry visibly the wounds of his death; in other words, Luke makes sure that the risen body, formed for its new life with God, has its identity in the body with which we live on earth.  Function, then, determines form, without loss of unity between the earthly body and the risen body.

It is not enough to simply gaze upon the risen Christ. The disciples were given their mission by Christ; “that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”  Obviously, this mission and mandate is also for us. We also, through our baptism and incorporation in the Church as the Body of Christ, have received the same mission. Without our co-operating with Jesus, the message of reconciliation and forgiveness will not be heard. It is not enough for us just to hear the message and implement it in our own lives, as we sometimes seem to think is all that is required of us.

We are reminded in the second reading; “We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, ‘I know him’, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth.” This means that above all to keep the commandments we must exhibit unconditional love, to follow the example of Jesus how he loved. We must ask ourselves how do we as individuals and as a community make present the love of God in the lives of others.  


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Updated: April 18, 2021

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