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On the third Sunday of Easter, we continue to hear Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples following his Resurrection. Today’s reading, taken from the Gospel of Luke, follows immediately after the report of Jesus' appearance to his disciples on the road to Emmaus. This is the event being recounted by the disciples in the opening verse of today’s Gospel.

Consistently in the reports of Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances, Jesus greets his disciples with the words, “Peace be with you.” This is appropriate for the disciples have witnessed the death of someone they loved, and they now fear for their own lives as well. Peace is what they need more than anything else. Jesus often connects this greeting of peace with another gift—forgiveness. In today’s Gospel, this connection is made in the final verses.

However, even as they hear Jesus’ greeting of peace, the disciples are startled and terrified. They are uncertain about what to make of the figure before them and, quite understandably, they mistake Jesus for a ghost.  

Jesus does two things to help the disciples overcome fear and unbelief. He shows them His hands and His feet, saying, “It is I Myself!”, and tells them to touch His body saying, “A ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have!” Jesus shows His hands and feet because on them is the sign of the nails (cf. Jn 20:25-27). The Risen Christ is Jesus of Nazareth, the same one who was nailed to the Cross and not a phantasm Christ as the disciples imagined when they saw Him. He orders them to touch His body, because the Resurrection is the Resurrection of the whole person, body and soul. The Resurrection has nothing to do with the theory of the immortality of the soul, which the Greeks taught. 

As further proof of his identity and of his resurrected body, Jesus eats with his disciples.  One of the greatest difficulties of the first Christians was that of accepting the Crucified as the promised Messiah, because the Law taught that a crucified person was a “person cursed by God” (Deut 21:22-23). For this reason, it was important to know that Scripture had already announced that “Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that in His name, conversion and forgiveness of sins would be preached to all peoples.” Jesus shows them what had already been written in the Law of Moses, in the prophets and in the psalms. Jesus risen from the dead, alive in their midst, becomes the key to opening to them the total significance of Sacred Scripture.

 Jesus now uncovers for them the significance of what was written about him in the Scriptures.  In this last order is enclosed the whole mission of the Christian communities: to be witnesses to the Resurrection, in such a way that the love of God which accepts us and forgives us will be manifested, and which wants us to live in community as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters with one another. As Jesus commissions his disciples to be witnesses to what Scriptures foretold, our celebration of the Eucharist commissions us. Like the disciples, we are sent to announce the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness of sins.

We live in the real world.  So, did Jesus.  We have real problems and real struggles.  Jesus meets us in the midst of them.  We come to church or read the bible, and we don’t just hear some nice story.  We experience the reality of God working throughout our history, in the times and places of old as well as in the times and places we know, and we encounter the love of God in Christ in our reality.

A mere story can’t change our lives.  But knowing our history, our present, and our future can.  That’s our reality.  And our reality is that Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  



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