April 16, 2021

Christ the Cornerstone

Jesus’ resurrection calms our troubled hearts

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“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” (Lk 24:46-47).

The Gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Easter (Lk 24:35-48) shows how Jesus went out of his way to persuade his frightened disciples that he is not a ghost. Yes, his body is different after the resurrection. He appears and disappears unrestrained by the ordinary limitations of space and time. And he isn’t always recognized even by those who were close to him, including Mary Magdalen who mistook him for a gardener, and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who thought he was a stranger.

These same two were telling the other disciples how their hearts leapt with joy “as they recognized him in the breaking of bread” (Lk 24:35) when Jesus interrupted their story, suddenly standing in their midst, saying “Peace be with you” (Lk 24:36).

The sight of Jesus struck terror in the hearts of the disciples. They thought he was a ghost or some frightful apparition from the netherworld. Jesus immediately put them at ease:

“ ‘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” (Lk 24:38-43).

Ghosts do not have flesh and bones. They also do not eat baked fish. Jesus wants the disciples to acknowledge him as fully human because once they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit they will be responsible for proclaiming the humanity of the risen Christ “to all the nations” (Lk 24:47). They are to be witnesses to the miracle of our redemption. In order to succeed in this great missionary task, they must see him, touch him and break bread with him.

In the first reading for this Third Sunday of Easter from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19), St. Peter admonishes us, saying:

“The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer” (Acts 3:15, 17-18).

All humanity shares in the guilt of those who crucified Jesus, but God’s mercy, which was foretold by all the prophets, has transformed our weakness and our sin. The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus has redeemed us and set us free. The joy we experience during this Easter season is overwhelming, and we are compelled to share our enthusiasm just as the two disciples did who encountered the risen Christ on the way to Emmaus. 

The second reading from the First Letter of John (1 Jn 2:1-5a) assures us that Jesus is our Advocate with the Father. “He is expiation for our sins,” St. John tells us, “and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2).

This same Jesus who assures us that he is no ghost, that he is flesh and bone as we are, stands before his heavenly Father, the supreme judge, and pleads our cause. Not only that, he offers himself as “expiation”—which means “the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement for the sins of others.” Although we remain accountable for our sins, Jesus has suffered and died for us. He has made it possible for us to avoid the fatal consequences of sin and death by becoming one with him as members of his Body, the Church. 

As we continue our joyful celebration of the Easter mystery, let’s pray for the grace to encounter Jesus as he is—truly God and truly one of us. We may not recognize him at first, but he has assured us that he is present among us, especially in our brothers and sisters who are poor, vulnerable or living on the margins of society.

As missionary disciples, we have the privilege and the awesome responsibility to share our joy with everyone, beginning with those who are closest to us. Let’s also pray that we can fulfill our obligation to be missionary disciples who give witness to all the nations. †

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