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.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 24, 35-48
Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.
They were still talking about all this when he himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you!' In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, 'Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts stirring in your hearts? See by my hands and my feet that it is I myself. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.' And as he said this he showed them his hands and his feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, as they were dumbfounded; so he said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. Then he told them, 'This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, was destined to be fulfilled.'
He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, 'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.
• In these days after Easter, the texts of the Gospel narrate the apparitions of Jesus. At the beginning, in the first years after the death and the Resurrection of Jesus, the Christians were concerned in 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, 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 the attention toward the orders of Jesus to the disciples – men and women – conferring some mission to them. The first respond to the criticism which come from outside. These show that Christians are not naïve and credulous persons who accept everything and anything, rather all the contrary. They themselves had many doubts in believing in the Resurrection. The others respond to the criticism from within and found 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, 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 in 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 not 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 the fear and the 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 in 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 on 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 offered him some fish and he eats before them, to help them to overcome the doubt.
• Luke 24, 44-47: A key for the reading to understand 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” (Dt 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 that which 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 open 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 of 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
• Some times, unbelief and doubt set in the heart and weaken the certainty that faith gives us concerning the presence of God in our life. Have you ever lived this some times? How have you overcome it?
• Our mission, and also my mission, is that of being a witness of the love of God revealed in Jesus. Am I a witness of this love?
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)