Third Sunday of Easter
(Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48)
The scriptures this weekend—particularly the first reading and the gospel—are all about recognition; recognizing the presence of Christ and who he really is. In the first reading, we find Peter and John in the temple in Jerusalem. By the power of Jesus’ name, they cured a man who had been crippled from birth and who had been begging money from people who passed by him. Naturally, his cure caused a big stir—especially among the temple officials—and Peter and John seized the moment to remind them that this man was cured not by them but by Jesus of Nazareth...the one they had put to death, calling out for him to be crucified.
The gospel verses we hear today come right after the disciples’ encounter with the Lord on the road to Emmaus. Today we find those same disciples back in Jerusalem, telling the others about their encounter with the risen Lord and, while they are speaking, the risen Lord comes among them. To prove himself real to them, he invites them to touch him and even eats some of their food. Once they are convinced that he it is he, he commissions them to do the work for which he called them—to preach to all the nations and tell them the Good News that he is risen and that they have reason to be hopeful.
When we hear these scriptures—the stories of how slow the disciples were to believe that Christ had indeed risen even as he stood before them, we sometimes shake our heads and wonder why. Yet, if we are honest, we know that they are not the only ones who doubt the presence of Christ in their midst. How often have we doubted? How often has Christ stood before us to assure us that he is with us ... how often have we received the very body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist ... and still wonder where God is when we are anxious or fearful. Maybe it’s because we would rather keep Christ at a safe distance, lest we feel compelled to change and be the better people he knows we can be. Maybe we fail to recognize Christ because so often he comes to us in the guise of the poor, the needy, the person or people we would rather not have to deal with.
I said at the beginning that the scriptures this weekend are about recognition...or the lack of it. And recognition is more than perception...seeing what is in front of us. Recognition is seeing with understanding ... not only seeing what is in front of us, but knowing and understanding who and what it is. It is something far deeper than merely seeing with our eyes. And this is part of the gift of the risen Christ to us—not only the assurance that he is risen and with us, but also—and more important—a share in that risen life so that we can rise above whatever it is that saddens us ... whatever it is that drags us down...whatever it is that prevents us from knowing the fullness of life God desires for us.
We see that so clearly and beautifully in the life of the disciples and the early Church. Having seen Jesus crucified and buried, they had been plunged into the depths of despair. They were a broken and frightened community; grieving people who felt that they lost everything meaningful for them, but each time the risen Lord appeared to them they grew confident in his presence among them and with them, they experienced a transformation that empowered them to unlock the doors and windows and go out into the world with confidence and joy to bring the Good News to any and all who would listen.
Although our presence here says that we believe in the risen Christ, we all have moments and times in our lives when, like the disciples, we feel like life has lost its meaning. We get mired down in sadness and grief and forget the times we have seen and experienced the presence of the risen Christ. It’s at those moments that we need to know and understand that the risen Christ is with us and that we have been and are loved by God more than we recognize. And the more we recognize—know and understand—this presence, the more our sadness is transformed into joy and we are empowered to be his witnesses to other.
– Fr. Anthony M. Criscitelli, T.O.R.