Today we celebrate the Resurrection, the greatest of our Church’s feasts. That makes it the perfect opportunity to think about what I call “faith encounters.”
There is a rich variety in the different Evangelists’ scriptural accounts of that first Easter. There are, to be sure, differences in the details of Jesus’ appearances to Peter, Mary Magdalene, the Emmaus disciples, Thomas, and various groups of apostles. Yet each Gospel writer seeks to communicate the same fundamental truth: the crucified one is risen. Surely, this was also the Virgin Mary’s experience!
When scripture scholars speak of these encounters they incorporate five common elements:
- The mood of sadness among Jesus’ grief-stricken followers. Consider Mary Magdalene weeping in the garden or the disappointment the Emmaus disciples are feeling as they return home. Their minds are clouded.
- The initiative for the encounter, which comes from Jesus. Whether he approaches Mary in the garden, who confuses him with the gardener, or joins the disciples returning to Emmaus, his person is unrecognized.
- A word or greeting of peace or reconciliation. Jesus engages his disciples; he often says to them, “Peace be with you.” He personally calls Mary Magdalene by her name.
- The climactic high point comes in the experience of recognition. The Emmaus disciples recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread; Mary addresses Jesus as “Rabbuni” (Teacher); John exclaims to Peter: “It is the Lord.”
- A mission command from Jesus concludes the encounter: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” “Go, make disciples of all nations.”
Does not that biblical pattern of resurrection encounters reflect our own
So often, we too walk in darkness, buffeted by life’s challenges. The truth is Jesus always walks with us. He is present, but we often fail to recognize his loving presence among us. Then Jesus calls us personally by name and we become aware of his living presence.
God’s Word, the Eucharist and personal prayer help us to overcome our blindness and recognize that Jesus the Christ is alive with us and in us. Thus, we are invited and sent into mission to announce the Good News to all.
Today, as “missionary disciples,” let us declare, in the words of Saint Luke tells us that the Emmaus disciples used, “Yes, it is true; the Lord has risen.” In Saint John’s words to Peter we also proclaim: “It is the Lord.”
I encourage you, in this season of great joy, to consider how your own life experience aligns with the Easter experience of Jesus’ disciples. I think you will find it fruitful—you may even surprise yourself!
James H. Kroeger, M.M.
O blessed light that first shattered
the once eternal gloom of unending death
at the breaking of dawn
that first Easter morning
shine in my heart and dispel any shadow
of doubt or despair and disperse
the clouds of sadness that I too
might gaze into the Empty Tomb
and hear my Lord and God
risen from the dead
call my name and offer peace to my soul.
Hide me in Your wounds, Lord Jesus,
that I too might find healing and joy.
Even as You healed me by Your suffering
transform my wounds into a fountain
of grace and healing for others.
Above all, Lord, even as I believe
You are present in the breaking of bread,
help me always to see You in
my Brothers and sisters
especially the poor, the oppressed,
the weak and the lonely.
May the glory of this Easter Day
shine in my heart and enlighten my mind
even when sin and suffering threaten
to extinguish all faith and hope.
Praise be to You, Risen Lord, Jesus Christ,
in every land, by every tongue,
now and till the end of time.
Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.