Saturday, April 25, 2009

Risen Into Our Midst

(3rd Sunday of Easter, B)

Brothers and sisters, if the resurrected Jesus seems a little hard to understand, you’re not alone. The Lord, upon encountering his disciples in the gospel we hear today, sees immediately that they are troubled and have questions in their hearts. It’s easy to understand why, really. Who is this Jesus who died and rose? On the one hand, the evangelist goes to great lengths to make sure we know that the risen Jesus is not a ghost or a simply spiritual presence. We also saw this last week when Jesus challenged Thomas to touch him. Today Jesus again invites the disciples to touch him, to see that he has flesh and bones. Jesus even eats! No ghost or spirit can do that.

So when we are talking about the risen Lord Jesus—at least in the time in between the Resurrection and Ascension—we affirm that he has a physical presence which is at least something like the physical body we have, and is continuous with the physical body he was for us in his earthly life.

But it’s not as easy as all that, brothers and sisters. Though the Lord Jesus rose from the dead in the flesh—as we affirm in the Roman Canon during the Easter Octave—his physical presence and his resurrected body are not exactly like the physical bodies that we are during our earthly pilgrimage. The Presence of the risen Jesus comes and goes instantaneously. He arrives in the midst of his disciples when they are hiding behind locked doors. Unlike us, he is not bounded by space and time.

So it seems like the risen Lord is a curious reality. Like a purely spiritual being, his presence and movement are not hampered by space, time, or physical barriers. But on the other hand, like a physical being, he can be touched, has real flesh, and even eats with his disciples. Sound far out? Well, it shouldn’t. This shouldn’t sound too strange for us Catholic Christians, because we see precisely the same thing in the first and foremost way the risen Lord is present with us now: the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

At the Last Supper, Jesus broke the bread and identified it with his own body, soon to be broken on the Cross. He offered the cup of wine, identifying it with his own blood, soon to be poured out in his sorrowful Passion. As we carry out his command to keep the commemoration of his own self-offering, we believe that the bread and wine of the Eucharist become the Real Presence of the risen Jesus among us. At Mass we find ourselves in the same joyful situation as the disciples in the gospel today: Jesus comes into our midst, blesses us with his peace, and is present in such a real way that we can really touch him and even eat with him in our Holy Communion. But though we touch and taste the real Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood, we know that this Presence that is still mysterious. Like the risen Lord with the disciples, it is a Presence not bound by time or place. That’s why we adore the one and undivided Body of Christ present here and in all the tabernacles through the world.

So as we gather here to know the Real Presence of the risen Jesus among us, and we receive his greeting and blessing of peace, let us be “amazed” like the disciples in the gospel today. Even if we still don’t know quite how to believe in something so sublime and wonderful as the real Body of Christ risen into the bread and wine of the Eucharist, let us not be doubtful in a sad way, but joyful before the mystery of Jesus risen into our midst.

P.s. This is the 100th post to Praise and Bless. Thanks to all who have prayed for me and encouraged me in this ministry. May the Lord reward your devotion to the Word of God.


GrandmaK said...

Congratulations. You give me the opportunity to reflect on the readings each week and for that I am grateful! Cathy

4narnia said...

congratulations from me, too, Fr. C! thank you for taking the time to inspire us with your homilies and for your devotion to the Word of God too! PAX et BONUM! ~tara t~