3rd Sunday of Easter 2012:
We continue to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior. The resurrection is vital to our faith, vital to Christianity. It should be vital to each of us personally. Because in the person of Christ raised from the dead we see our hope for eternal life, we see the source of our joy, and the inspiration for following the commandments. If Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then our faith is in vain, St. Paul said so long ago. But, our faith is not in vain, Jesus is raised from the dead. St. Peter says it so well today in our first reading: the author of life was put to death, but God raised him from the dead, of this we are witnesses.
These 50 days of Easter is a time to reflect on the resurrection, a gift to us from the Church as a way to bolster our faith. Perhaps when we reflect on this good news we are bit like those first disciples? Jesus makes his presence known to them and what is their reaction: they are startled and terrified! Jesus says: Peace be with you, and the response is terror. I can almost hear Jesus: gee thanks you guys, I rise from the dead and it terrifies you? Yes, and for several reasons. First, the resurrection is hard to believe, usually when people die, they stay dead. To see Jesus walking and talking would be terrifying because this is not what usually happens. Also, they might be afraid because their record is shaky: they had just betrayed and abandoned Jesus. Third, they might have been terrified because of the implications of Jesus resurrection: if Jesus is raised from the dead, then he is truly who he said he was, and if he is truly who he said he was then they had to listen to him, they had to be like him, they had to lay their lives down the way that he laid his down for them. No wonder the disciples were terrified. But, what takes away their fear? They had an experience of the risen Jesus, they saw him face to face, they touched his body, they saw that the resurrection was not just some spiritual ideal, not just an idea about Jesus; rather, the resurrection was a plain and simple fact: Jesus is truly risen from the dead.
We might be filled with those same terrors when we reflect on the resurrection this Easter season. The resurrection is hard to believe: do we really believe that this man, Jesus, died, was buried, but rose on the third day. Can we believe this, do we believe this? These questions might fill us with doubt, terror.
We might be ashamed of all our sins and weaknesses. When we think about the risen Christ, his holiness and purity, if we think that Jesus is with us at all times, we might be afraid and ashamed: who am I to be in the presence of Christ.
We too might be afraid of the implications, if Jesus is truly raised, if he really is who he said he was, if he is not just some ancient character in an old book, but if he is truly raised doesn't that change everything. Wouldn't we have to change our lives if Jesus is really and truly raised from the dead? Maybe there is something we are holding on to that we don't want to let go of, maybe we would rather not be Christ's disciples… But, if, like those early disciples, we have an experience of the risen Jesus our fears and anxieties will disappear, we will gladly follow Jesus because we will see in him the truth of our existence.
Just like those first disciples we draw near to Christ in his body and blood. Right here on this altar we see Jesus, maybe not in the same form as those apostles, but no less Christ. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, because it is Jesus. No wonder the priest says before communion: the peace of the Lord be with you always. Reflecting on the resurrection may fill us with some doubts and terrors, but if we follow God's commands and draw close to Christ in the holy Eucharist we will see Jesus, we will know him, and he will fill us with his peace.