1) Opening prayer
Almighty God and Father,
Jesus died for us on the cross
and You raised Him from the dead.
We have not seen the marks of the nails in His hands
nor touched the wound in His side,
but we believe that He is alive
and present here among us.
Open our hearts to His word
and let us touch Him in the bread of the Eucharist,
that He may raise us above our sins
and change us into new people.
May we thus bear witness to Your risen Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 24:35-48
The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way, and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. He said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."
• In these days after Easter, the Gospel texts narrate the apparitions of Jesus. At the beginning, in the first years after the death and the Resurrection of Jesus, the Christians were concerned with defending the Resurrection through the apparitions. They themselves, the living community, were a great apparition of the Risen Jesus. But in the measure in which the criticism of the enemies against the faith in the Resurrection increased, and that internally, and as there arose criticism and doubts concerning diverse functions in the community (cf. 1 Co 1:12), they began to recall the apparitions of Jesus. There are two types of apparitions: (a) those which stress the doubts and the resistance of the disciples in believing in the Resurrection, and (b) those who call attention to the orders of Jesus to the disciples – men and women – conferring some mission to them. The first ones respond to criticisms from the outside. These show that Christians are not naïve and credulous persons who accept everything and anything. Au contraire! They themselves had many doubts in believing in the Resurrection. The others respond to the criticism from within and establish the community functions and tasks, not on human qualities which are always debatable, but on the authority and orders received from the Risen Jesus. The apparitions of Jesus in today’s Gospel put together two different aspects: the doubts of the disciples and the mission to announce and to forgive received from Jesus.
• Luke 24:35: The summary of the story of Emmaus. Returning to Jerusalem, the two disciples found the community together and they shared with them the experience that they had lived. They told them what had happened along the road and how they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. The community gathered together, and in turn, shared the apparition of Jesus to Peter. This was a reciprocal sharing of the experience of the Resurrection, as it also happens today when the communities gather together to share and celebrate their faith, their hope and their love.
• Luke 24:36-37: The apparition of Jesus causes great fright in the disciples. At this moment, Jesus becomes present among them and says, “Peace be with you!” This is the most frequent greeting of Jesus: “Peace be with you!” (Jn 14:27; 16:33; 20:19, 21, 26). But the disciples, upon seeing Jesus, were frightened and did not recognize Him. Before them is Jesus in person, but they think that they are seeing a ghost, a phantasm. They cannot believe it. It is now the encounter between Jesus of Nazareth and the Risen Jesus.
• Luke 24:38-40: Jesus helps them to overcome fear and unbelief. Jesus does two things to help the disciples overcome fear and unbelief. He shows them His hands and His feet, saying, “It is I Myself!”, and tells them to touch His body saying, “A ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have!” Jesus shows His hands and feet because on them is the sign of the nails (cf. Jn 20:25-27). The Risen Christ is Jesus of Nazareth, the same one who was nailed to the Cross and not a phantasm Christ as the disciples imagined when they saw Him. He orders them to touch His body, because the Resurrection is the Resurrection of the whole person, body and soul. The Resurrection has nothing to do with the theory of the immortality of the soul, which the Greeks taught.
• Luke 24:41-43: The other gesture to help them overcome unbelief. But it does not suffice! Luke said that they could not believe because their joy was so great that they became dumbfounded. Jesus asks them to give Him something to eat. They offer Him some fish and He eats before them, to help them to overcome doubt.
• Luke 24:44-47: A key to understanding the new significance of the Scripture. One of the greatest difficulties of the first Christians was that of accepting the Crucified as the promised Messiah, because the Law taught that a crucified person was a “person cursed by God” (Deut 21:22-23). For this reason, it was important to know that Scripture had already announced that “Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that in His name, conversion and forgiveness of sins would be preached to all peoples.” Jesus shows them what had already been written in the Law of Moses, in the prophets and in the psalms. Jesus risen from the dead, alive in their midst, becomes the key to opening to them the total significance of Sacred Scripture.
• Luke 24:48: You are witnesses of this. In this last order is enclosed the whole mission of the Christian communities: to be witnesses to the Resurrection, in such a way that the love of God which accepts us and forgives us will be manifested, and which wants us to live in community as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters with one another.
4) Personal questions
• Sometimes unbelief and doubt beset the heart and weaken the certainty that faith gives us concerning the presence of God in our life. Have you ever experienced this? How have you overcome it?
• Our mission is that of being witnesses to the love of God revealed in Jesus. Am I a witness to this love?
• Can I identify those things in my life which cast doubt on my faith? How do I defend against these attacks?
5) Concluding Prayer
What are human beings
that You spare a thought for them,
or the child of Adam that You care for him? (Ps 8:4)