Tuesday 13th April 2021

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A Beacon Of Light . . . “My Lord And My God!”

April 6, 2021 Frontpage No Comments

By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON JR.

(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. He received his BA in religious studies and his MA in dogmatic theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.)

  • + + Jesus Christ is Risen, He is truly Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia! We have begun the celebration of the Easter Season and are basking in the glory of the Resurrection. The seven weeks of Easter are an invitation to a renewed relationship with the Risen Lord. Throughout the Easter Season, we read in Sacred Scripture that Jesus appears, or reveals Himself, several times to His disciples. On Easter Sunday, the Risen Lord appears five times. These revelations are an occasion for us to rejoice that the promise of the Lord has been fulfilled. The Resurrection of Christ opens for us the gateway to the heavenly Kingdom.
    Each year on Easter Sunday, I reflect on how the followers of Jesus must have felt. For three years prior, they participated and accompanied Jesus everywhere as He preached the Kingdom of God. During these teachings, Jesus often gave subtle clues to His pending death, but the apostles didn’t really understand. Little did they know, while in Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover, the very fabric of discipleship would be challenged. They saw Jesus arrested, they saw Him crucified and die, and they saw His limp body laid in a tomb for burial. Their faith had been shaken to the core! The anticipation is haunting!
    Suddenly, three days after His death there is word that He has risen. There is joy, but there is also a bit of skepticism. There is some uncertainty. How will they continue the work of the Lord?
    The Easter Season is filled with moments where Jesus alleviates the doubts and fears of His followers. These people resemble a cross-section of humanity. Each could represent us in some way. How does Jesus transform the drama of the prior days? He simply begins by appearing to those who were struggled most with the events surrounding His death.
    The first appearance Jesus made was to Mary Magdalene. Mary was the one who went to the tomb early in the morning to anoint the body of Jesus. When she arrived at the tomb it was empty. Mary was afraid they had stolen the body of Jesus. Soon her eyes are opened.
    Scripture reminds us of this: “Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him, ‘Rabboni!’ [which is to say, Teacher]” (John 20:14-16). This appearance was totally unexpected. Mary failed to recognize the Lord! Jesus spoke, and she recognized Him.
    Jesus appeared next to Mary, the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna. This happened after the appearance to Mary Magdalene. After an angel told them Jesus had risen, they were on their way to tell Jesus’ disciples when they met the risen Christ. “And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him” (Matt. 28:9). Again, we have another unexpected appearance. As was true with Mary Magdalene, these women touched the body of Jesus. They believed because they held the Lord.
    Next Jesus appears to Peter. Peter is the first of the apostles to see the risen Christ. This appearance might have been to reassure him that the Lord still loved him, considering he had just denied His Lord. The Gospels are completely silent as to the details of this meeting. The Gospel of Luke merely wrote: “The Lord is risen indeed and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:34). Jesus’ appearance to Peter is a reminder to us that even in our denial of faith, Jesus still wants a relationship with us.

Jesus Never Doubts Us

Later during the day on Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. These two were conversing about the tragedy they had witnessed regarding the death of Jesus. Jesus approaches and walks with them, but their eyes are shielded from seeing the Lord.
“And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were conversing with each other about all these things which had taken place. And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus himself approached, and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing him” (Luke 24:13-16).
I love this story of the journey on the road to Emmaus. It reminds me that we are often blinded by the allure of the earthly life. Our eye is closed to the Lord even when He is walking beside us. Like these two disciples, we recognize Jesus in the life-giving gift of the Eucharistic meal. As was true with the women, these two disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise. In fact, they were leaving Jerusalem because they had lost hope in Him. And yet, Jesus appeared in their midst and they failed to recognize Him.
The last of the five appearances of Jesus on Easter Sunday took place in the evening, probably in the Upper Room in where Jesus had celebrated the Passover Meal with His disciples.
“When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And when he had said this, he showed them both his hands and his side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord….But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came” (John 20:19, 20, 24).
Eight days later, however, the Risen Lord appeared again — this time with Thomas present: “And after eight days his disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and My God!’” (John 20:26-28).
This moment of the Resurrection encourages us that even our doubts can be transformed into reality. Like Thomas, we may have at times doubted Jesus, but Jesus has never doubted us.
Jesus appeared once more to seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee: “After these things Jesus manifested himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and he manifested himself in this way. There was together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples” (John 21:1, 2). Coming back from a fruitless night of fishing, they did not recognize Jesus standing on the shore. It was only when He told them to cast their nets again that recognition took place.
There is also the account of Jesus appearing before His eleven disciples in Galilee: “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. And when they saw him, they worshiped him; but some were doubtful” (Matt. 28:16, 17).
The appearances mentioned above regarding Jesus’ Resurrection, caused His disciples to believe that He had risen from the dead. Luke says that Jesus showed Himself alive with many convincing proofs: “To these he also presented himself alive after his suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

A Common Theme

In all the appearances of Jesus after His Resurrection, there is one common theme that exists each time. As Jesus approaches the persons chosen to experience the Resurrection, at first that person cannot recognize Jesus. Their eyes are blinded by the Lord. This is intentional because Jesus wanted them to do their part. Jesus was looking for a yearning within them, a kind of crying out to the Lord.
Each of us is called to experience the same peace and joy of the Resurrection. How that happens is up to Jesus. We might be alone, walking down the street, with friends or even feel like we are not even worthy of the Lord’s love because we betrayed Him. The disciples who ministered with and followed Jesus were all destined to receive the Lord’s merciful love, even despite their own unworthiness. Their eyes and hearts had to be opened to recognize the Lord.
May the Easter Octave afford us the opportunity to recognize Jesus! May our eyes and hearts be opened again to the glorious love the Father bestows on us every day! Happy Easter!

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