Christ, Who Once Died, Now Is Living In Our Midst
(III Sunday of Easter, April 10, 2016; see Jn 21:1-19)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The stories of how many and different people had the chance to encounter Christ after He rose from the dead and how their lives definitely changed since would be the topic of what I would like to share with you on this Third Sunday of Easter.
Early in the morning of the First Day of the week in the Jewish calendar, which would later become the First Sunday of Easter in Christian Sacred Liturgy, three people went to the tomb where our Lord Jesus was laid to rest. They were Saints Peter, John and Mary of Magdala. Saint Peter symbolizes the Church authority, dealing with matters of laws, discipline and order. Saint John, one of the first revered Christian theologians whose job is to look for the reasons why we believe and how we should expound our faith. Saint Mary of Magdala, on the contrary, stands for ordinary believers in Christ with little or no academic training on the Holy Bible or Church’s doctrine. Both Saint Peter and Saint John, arriving to the end of their search, saw nothing but the empty tomb. Knowledge of the Risen Lord obtained from books, from others’ opinion, necessary though, cannot help—if it is not too harsh to say that such mere human achievement proves sometimes to be useless—in moments of faith crisis. As for Saint Mary of Magdala, her faith in the Risen Lord, lived in a sincere and popular manner, may turn, in certain situations, an obstacle serious enough, to prevent her from recognizing Him in the dark hours of her life. She indeed mistook the beloved Master for the gardener.
Saint Thomas, the prominent figure of those who put more weight on scientific proofs than on revealed truths, had to face some doubtful circumstances. Science and technology have their own autonomy and authority in teaching people the natural realities provided they do not go beyond the limit of their designated field. The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and that of the dead on the last day of human history pertain in no way to the world of things seen, heard and experienced by human beings. These are rather subjects for religions to legitimately expound and proclaim.
The two disciples travelling to the remote village of Emmaus would teach us another important lesson on how dangerous it could be for the study and understanding of the Holy Bible without personal faith in the Risen Lord. Over-proud of and overconfident in their own human accomplishments as Bible experts, the two scholars went too far from the truth that Christ must suffer first before entering His kingdom of glory. By so wrongly maintaining their erroneous stance, they could not even see the Risen Lord walking at their side. Christ from now on lives with us, speaks to us, and teaches us, guides us His faithful disciples, when we read the Bible, when we listen to the Church founded by Himself. He forgives us in the Sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation, He feeds us with His Body and Blood so that we may have life eternal with God.
The disciples in this Sunday’s Gospel could not recognize the Risen Lord because they were saddened by too many misfortunes. Their eyes were opened only when they saw the Master direct their business in the right way leading to surprise success, take care of their breakfast.
Let us, therefore, not allow any form of typhoon, earthquake or disaster—meaning to say many challenges, fears, doubts, failures, persecutions, oppressions, rejections, loneliness, sickness, even death, too often happening in life, to hinder us from putting our entire trust and confidence in the Risen Lord Who was raised by God the Father Almighty to be forever the Master of history, the Lord of the universe and the Savior of humanity.
“Do not be afraid, I have conquered the world!” Let us listen to Him Who has absolutely defeated the forces of evil to free us from sin and death. Christ Who, in the very strong words of the Apostle Paul, yesterday, today and forever remains the same with His unchanging message, “Fear not, it is I.”
Have we met the Risen Lord in our journey of life? It is truly hard to know whether or not any among us has received such a blessing. The proof for this great favor of meeting the Risen Lord is that we, similarly to those disciples who totally had a radical conversion—perfect renewal of their personalities—after encountering Him, must have changed our way of life, to the point that we can say like Saint Paul, “It is no longer I who live but it is Christ Who lives in me.”
In Saint Paul’s words, “whoever is in Christ is a new creation.”
Fr. Francis Nguyen, O.P.