Apr 21, 2012

3rd Easter Sunday: "Touch me and see . . ."

Rembrandt: Head of Christ

"Why are you troubled? . . . Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself."

Sunday Word: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042212.cfm

Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19
1 Jn 2: 1-5a
Lk 24: 35-48

Last year there was a very good movie that became quite a topic for conversation because of its’ symbolic value.  The name of the movie was, “The Way.” It starred Martin Sheen as a California doctor whose adult son had gone off to Europe to search for direction in his life. 

One day the doctor receives a tragic phone call that his son had died in a mountain storm in southern France.  Sheen sadly travels to France to claim the body of his son and there discovers that his son died as he began a somewhat solitary journey along the Camino de Santiago, (The Way of St. James) an ancient route for pilgrims through southern France and across northern Spain to the Shrine of St. James in Campostella, Spain.  The Way is a kind of analogy for those in search of something greater than themselves and ultimately a renewal of faith. 

Along this journey one would encounter many others, walking together, each on a personal quest.

On this Third Sunday of Easter we hear once again about a very special place and the sharing of food in the presence of the risen Lord.  The Gospel begins with two disciples who have just returned filled with wonder from an encounter with the risen Jesus at the little town called Emmaus, and their journey is referred to as “the way:”  

“The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread . . .” (Lk 24: 35). These disciples are never given a name so the writer of the Gospel of Luke may want us to see something more in this story than just two anonymous disciples.

St. Peter in the first reading from Acts 3, runs down the line of God’s work among his people not in some disembodied way but through specific human beings whom he had chosen:  “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob and the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus . . . “ (Acts 3: 13-14). This God who was fully present in Jesus as the “author of life” as St. Peter states is from their own stock.  They as God’s people, through ignorance, had no clue who they were dealing with in Jesus but despite that miscalculation, God continued to work his will in their midst. The answer is now to “repent, therefore, and be converted.” (Acts 3: 19). 

In other words, this Sunday like the other Sunday’s of Easter continue to remind us that God has entered our world in a form that can be touched, heard and seen.  In Jesus God has become perceptible to humankind and his concrete reality is all the more present in the fullness of the resurrection of Christ Jesus. 

While there is nothing more human than to share a meal, this God in Jesus has inserted himself around that common experience.  Along the Way to Emmaus, like those who traveled that road in the movie decribed earlier, these two anonymous disciples were in search of something more.  They heard reports of Jesus’ resurrection but came away more confused and disillusioned.  The plan simply did not work out as expected and his execution on a cross was the ultimate tragedy for them. 

As they ponder what direction to take now, Jesus approaches in the midst of their confusion and grief. In the breaking of bread they come to recognize his tangible presence and rush back to Jerusalem to share the astounding news.  Here is where today’s Gospel picks up.

During another “meal” in which Jesus asks for a piece of fish to eat the Apostles could not deny what they saw, what they heard, and what they could touch.  The Lord of life has truly risen in a state both material and spiritual.  Yet, the more amazing thing is that it didn’t end at that moment.  The resurrection appearances are not private revelations or simply apparitions meant for a few select individuals. It is a call to all of humanity for all time.

For the early Christians these stories were confirmations of their faith and an assurance as to where and how the risen Christ appeared to them – and by faith how he continues to appear to us.  While Christianity is built upon the testimony of the Apostles as “Apostolic,” the physical experience of the risen Lord also reminded them and gives us confidence that Christ lives within his Body the Church. Our God is touchable and sensible.

Like the Apostles we can encounter the risen Christ through our bodily senses and we find that so beautifully experienced in our Eucharistic Liturgy. Like the nameless disciples who excitedly shared their experience with the Apostles, we too hear the Scriptures opened for us and then we too break bread and hear, taste, and touch the risen Lord through them. 

So, why aren’t the two disciples given names? I believe it is because Luke wanted them to be us.  They have no specific names because they carry all the names of all believers in Jesus.  The names of all those who walk the way in search for God and along that way find themselves in reflection, dialogue, and discovery.  And once converted, like our newly baptized in this Easter season, they certainly do run to tell others about what they too have seen and heard. 

Am I looking for something more in my life?  Has your experience of the Christian-Catholic faith changed you in ways you did not realize? Where and how is Christ present to us when we gather as Church to open the scriptures and to break bread?