3rd Sunday of Easter
Acts 3.13-15, 17-19; Ps 4; I Jn 2.1-5; Lk 24.35-48
"Don't worry, Miss, I've got you."
Our tendency is to look for Christ in the extraordinary, the spectacular, the breathtaking. Remember in Superman: the Movie when Superman first reveals his superpowers to the world? Lois Lane is dangling from a cable, high atop the Daily Planet building, screaming at the top of her lungs. Just as she begins her long fall to earth, Superman changes into his flashy red, yellow, and blue outfit and swoops up to catch her in midair. "Don't worry, Miss," he assures her, "I've got you." "You've got me," she exclaims. "Who's got you?" Just then the helicopter that has been perched on the edge of the building begins to fall straight toward them and the crowd below. But Superman merely grabs it with his one free arm and gently sets both it and Lois safely back on the landing pad. When he turns to leave, an astonished Lois stammers out the words, "Who ARE you?" "A friend," Superman replies warmly, and as he flies straight up into the air with a sort of half twist. Lois faints.
That's the way we would like for Christ to come to us. And that is why we miss him. Christ reveals himself as he has always revealed himself "through the Word and through the Sacraments," through the study of Scripture and the breaking of Bread. That is why when we need encouragement we go to our Bible or we go to our church because there, Christ is revealed in all his glory.
What If Jesus Appeared to you?
If you were living in Palestine at the time of Jesus and met him what sort of person would you expect him to be? What would he be like to talk to? Did he have a good sense of humor? When Jesus appeared on that Easter Sunday evening in Jerusalem to the group of disciples it was a gentle encounter. They were frightened after his death but he calmed them, “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.” A pretty normal person, don’t you think, someone you could talk to? He wasn’t someone with airs and graces. He was hungry and accepted what food they had, grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. It was so casual, so normal, so informal and so ordinary! Jesus was a cool person!
Jesus the Man in News
A well-known hymn begins “Reach out and touch the Lord”. If we knew the Lord in person when he was ministering in Palestine we would see how easygoing a person he was, that he had no airs or graces, and that he was easy to talk to. As we read the Gospels we see that he loved other people. He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11.5). Several times in John’s Gospel we are told that one of the disciples was a special friend to Jesus, the beloved disciple (John 13.23; 19.26; 20.2; 21.7,20). When Jesus was healing people he touched them (Mark 1.31; 1.41; 5.41; 8.22-26). He allowed the sick to touch him (Mark 6:56). This is what Jesus said of the sinner woman in Luke 7.44-45 to the Pharisee who invited him to his house, “I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in.” What confidence she had in approaching Jesus. How easy Jesus was to approach. No wonder that they said to Jesus in Mark 12.14 “we know that you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone, because human rank means nothing to you…” Class distinctions mean nothing to Jesus. They are figments of our imagination, pride and sinfulness but in the eyes of Jesus class distinctions mean nothing.
He was as human as we are
When we suffer great pain we cry. Jesus too cried when he was hurt. When his cousin and friend Lazarus died we read in John 11.35-36 that Jesus wept. Jesus cried before entering Jerusalem for the last time before his passion because he knew they would not accept him as the Messiah and that the city would be destroyed (Luke 19.41-44).
Jesus the Man Who Enjoyed Life
Jesus certainly knew how to enjoy himself. He attended several dinners: the one given him by Matthew/Levi after he called him (Mat 9.9-10; Mk 2.13-15; Luke 5.27-29); at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19.7); and Pharisees invited him to dinner (Luke 7.36; 11.37; 14.1); and there was dinner at Lazarus’ house (John 12.2). At Cana (John 2) Jesus changed between 120 and 180 gallons of water into wine so that the wedding guests could continue to enjoy themselves, and it was wine of the best vintage. (At that time the wedding celebration lasted a week). Jesus wanted people to enjoy community celebrations because they were a foretaste of the banquet of heaven. Obviously Jesus enjoyed such occasions himself because of the description of him, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7.34)
He was Close to Social Issues
When there is injustice we become angry. Jesus too became angry when he saw injustice. He drove the money-changers out of the temple (Mat 21.12-13). Anger is an emotion we are uncomfortable with because we handle it badly. Anger, like every emotion, is neutral, neither good nor bad. What makes it good or bad is what we do with the emotion. We can sometimes take our frustration with one person out on a different person but when Jesus vented his anger, he never directed it at the wrong person, always at the appropriate person. Jesus never did anything violent against any person. Anger is good when it arises from a suitable cause, when it is properly directed and correctly expressed. Anger has to be expressed in some way and let go, otherwise it eats into the person. Jesus didn’t hold onto anger; he expressed it and let it go. That was a healthy way to live.
Jesus was Troubled
Like all of us, Jesus was afraid when faced with something dreadful. We all know about Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane when he asked his Father to let the chalice of his passion pass him by. But in John 12.27 Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled.” Imagine Jesus saying his soul is troubled! Very human and ordinary, don’t you think? How did Jesus cope when he was troubled? He prayed and then he was uplifted once again so that in the following verse Jesus said, “Father, glorify your name.” If our prayer is working, if we are praying properly, it should also uplift us as it uplifted Jesus.
Jesus under Trial
We suffer many temptations and Jesus also was tempted on many occasions not only in the desert for 40 days. During the Last Supper, in Luke’s version, Jesus says, “You are the men who have stood by me faithfully in my trials” (Luke 22,28). Through Peter, Satan tempted Jesus, when Peter said he must not suffer and die in Jerusalem (Mat 16.21-23; Mark 8.31-33). Jesus reply was “Get behind me Satan.” Jesus was tempted in every way that we are (Heb 4.15).
A document of Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 22, says Jesus “laboured with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted with a human will, and loved with a human heart. Born of Mary the Virgin he truly became one of us and, sin apart, was like us in every way.”
Proof of the Resurrection
All of that brings me back to our Gospel today and the gentle meeting between Jesus and his disciples. They were frightened after his death but he calmed them, “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.” A pretty normal person, don’t you think, someone you could talk to? He was hungry and accepted what food they had, grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. Reach out and touch the Lord! He is waiting for you. You can tell him everything. You do not have to hide anything. Class distinctions mean nothing to Jesus. Reach out and touch the Lord. “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.”
Back in the Trenches
There is a story of a British soldier in the First World War who lost heart for the battle and deserted. Trying to reach the coast for a boat to England that night, he ended up wandering in the pitch black night, hopelessly lost. In the darkness, he came across what he thought was a signpost. It was so dark that he began to climb the post so that he could read it. As he reached the top of the pole, he struck a match to see and found himself looking squarely into the face of Jesus Christ. He realized that, rather than running into a signpost, he had climbed a roadside crucifix. Then he remembered the One who had died for him . . . who had endured . . . who had never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches. ("To Illustrate," Preaching Magazine, Jan-Feb 1989.) Maybe that's what you and I need to do in the moments of our distress and darkness, “strike a match in the darkness and look on the face of Jesus Christ.” For Christ is here. He comes to us just as he came to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus even though we may not recognize him. He takes the initiative. He knocks on the door.
Jesus’ humanity inspires us to become like him. We need to shed all our self importance, pride, egoism and selfishness so that we may be elevated to Christ in his body. This process should help us usher into new life in Jesus.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada