April 19, 2015 - Third Sunday of Easter
Do you enjoy ghost stories? I do. Probably most of us when we were younger enjoyed ghost stories even if they were scary especially if told around campfire at night. Maybe we were sure there were no such things as ghosts, but we still enjoyed the shiver that went up our spine when we heard about them.
In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus appeared to his disciples but they thought that they were seeing a ghost. How come? There was great excitement among them in those days following the first Easter Day. The number of people with stories to tell was increasing. His tomb had been found empty. A woman or two had seen him in the garden near the tomb. Two disciples told of their wonderful experience on the road to Emmaus and how they 'recognized Jesus at the breaking of the bread.'
Despite all this, the disciples were slow to believe. Their unbelief makes the incident we have this Sunday. We do not know precisely what the disciples were thinking when they first saw the risen Lord, but we are told in today’s Gospel that 'they were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. They had placed their faith in him yet he had been crucified. They had fled in fear and now were gathered in secret. They thought they were seeing a ghost. And what could they trust in a ghost?
But Jesus was no ghost. He was real. His presence among them was no simple apparition or a figment of their imagination. So Jesus spelled out, "A ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have." He invited them to touch him so that they could be sure. We can sense something of his humour as he asked if they had anything for him to eat, not because of his hunger, but because he wanted them to know for sure that he was in flesh and blood. All these things had convinced the disciples that their Lord has truly risen. From that time on, they dedicated their whole lives to be witnesses and to proclaim the message of Easter: the one who has been crucified now is risen.
Can these Easter stories convince you and bring you faith in the risen Lord? Probably some say yes and some say no. But for me, the stronger proof of his resurrection is its fruit, the faith proclamation of unlettered fishermen. It changed people's lives and continues to do so today. To watch people move from a state of alienation to conversion and a new direction in life is the clearest proof of the risen Christ. To see a faith-filled person inspire the forces of other people to pursue an ideal, to see hatred and hostility become love and forgiveness, to see the witnesses of people who dedicate their whole lives to preach the Good News: these things tell us that "Christ has truly risen and appeared to Simon."
Our presence in church is also a proof of resurrection. We are not given to ecstasy, or apparitions. But if we earnestly strive to live out his teaching, even with failure, we do experience his resurrection and peace. We draw life and courage, as well as comfort, from being faithful even when our prayer is dry, when we don't 'feel' close to God. But if we are faithful and try to live as Christians, to live as witnesses to the Risen Lord, then we should take courage. God is close. He is present at every step of our journey. And the Risen Lord's message is that of Easter: "PEACE."
May the Risen Lord in the Eucharist Bless You All!