April 13, 1997 Luke 24, 35-48
THE GOSPEL TODAY presents the disciples disturbed by many mixed emotions at the appearance of the risen Jesus: “panic and fright,” “incredulous for sheer joy and wonder.” Their flustered state serves to emphasize just how incapable human beings are of responding even to the joy of Easter without the grace of Jesus Christ.
But the resurrected Christ generously gives this grace, especially in the gift of peace that subdues our inner turbulence as it restores and perfects all the rich potentialities that a relationship with the Lord promises. The bestowal of peace is a pattern of divine charity that we reenact every time we gather for Mass: “The Lord be with you—and also with you.”
Jesus tempers the disciples'agitation by showing them his wounds, by inviting them to touch him, and by partaking of food in their presence—that is to say, by drawing them once again into the saving actions of the Passion. Because the disciples are truly re-united with the Risen Jesus, the Lord reveals to them the purpose of his visit. Namely, the resurrected Christ stands among his disciples to convince them that there is nothing “ghostly” about Christianity. It is a faith of “flesh and bones,” like the risen Jesus himself. And it relies on the dedication of the body and soul of every disciple for its thriving.
That is why Jesus instructs his disciples: “Recall the words I spoke to you.” Faith flourishes only through active and applied memorializing. We see the fulfillment of God's promises in the Scriptures in our own lives only to the extent that we open our minds to Jesus and welcome the understanding that the Spirit gives.
At the same time, Christ's disciples are called to preach penance for the remission of sins to all the nations in the Name of Jesus. The peace of Easter cannot coexist alongside the tyranny of sin that seeks to sabotage God's peace. The grace of penance puts all disciples in touch with Jesus as it unites them to his saving words and to the healing food of the Eucharist.
Christ commissions his disciples because they “are witnesses of this.” A witness is one who speaks from first-hand knowledge. We who are drawn into these same transforming graces of Easter also become true witnesses of the Resurrection. Our personal struggles with panic, fright, joy, and wonder are divine invitations to place our confidence anew in the peace of Jesus by energetically bringing that peace to others who are alone in their interior turmoils and who remain in need of hearing the Name of Jesus.
Notice that Jesus appears in the life of the disciples “while they were still speaking” about what had happened on the road to Emmaus and how they had come to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread. The more we recall to other the words Jesus has spoken to us, the more all will know that Christ is still with us.
Father Cameron, a Register contributing editor, teaches homiletics at St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y.