TODAY WE HAVE ANOTHER ACCOUNT of Jesus appearing to his disciples on Easter Sunday. This time it is from Luke. We should not be disturbed that these various accounts do not tally, nor should we try artificially to put them into a coherent account as used to be done by “harmonies” of the gospels in the past.
As today’s Gospel opens, the disciples, gathered in the room, are hearing the account of the two disciples who have just returned from Emmaus after a powerful experience of meeting the Risen Jesus. All of a sudden there is Jesus among them. He gives them the conventional greeting, “Peace to you!”
The disciples’ first reaction, however, is one of fear and alarm. As any normal person of the day would have reasoned, Jesus is dead and so this must be his ghost. But Jesus reassures them: he points out to the solidity of his body. He invites them to touch his hands and feet. Ghosts do not have flesh and bones. In one sense, this is not the Jesus who died on the cross (he can appear through closed doors and in widely scattered locations) but it is still fully the same person they had always known.
Now their feelings turn to inexpressible joy. As they look on him with a mixture of happiness and wonder, he pushes them a bit further and asks for food to eat. Jesus is truly risen; he is still fully in our world and part of it although in a very different way from before Good Friday.
Why he suffered
He now, as he did with the disciples going to Emmaus, explained how what had happened to him was all foretold clearly in the Scriptures. His suffering and death were no tragedies; his resurrection was no surprise. It was all part of God’s plan.
But it does not stop there. In the name of that Jesus who suffered, died and rose, forgiveness of sin, that is, total reconciliation with God, was to be proclaimed to the whole world.
This is put in other words in the First Letter of John today: “Jesus is the sacrifice that takes our sins away, and not only ours, but the whole world’s.”
And then comes their mission and mandate: “You are witnesses to this.” We see this mission being carried out as Peter speaks to the people in today’s First Reading. He explains the real meaning of what happened to Jesus and how they are to respond to the message.
Our mission too
Obviously, this mission and mandate is also for us. We also, through our baptism and incorporation in the Church as the Body of Christ, have received the same mission. Without our co-operating with Jesus, the message of reconciliation and forgiveness will not be heard. It is not enough for us just to hear the message and implement it in our own lives, as we sometimes seem to think is all that is
All round us there are people who have never heard the message at all. Others have never heard it in all its clarity and power. Many others have heard it only in a distorted form (and that can include many Christians).
They all need to hear that greeting: “Peace with you” and to experience the peace that only Jesus can give. Will we be the ones to carry that message today to even one other person? If we all did just that, we would reach a very large number of people.