Sunday, 19 April 2015

Easter Week 3 Sunday (Year B) - 19 April 2015

Readings: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48

It is tempting to think that an encounter with the Risen Lord would solve lots of problems, remove all doubts, answer all questions, and calm all fears. 'If someone were to rise from the dead, people would repent', says the rich man in one of Jesus' parables. To which the Lord replies that 'if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead'. An encounter with the Risen Lord is not as simple or as straightforward as we would like it to be. And if it happens, we will need a Bible if we are to understand what we are experiencing.

This is clear from the readings we hear today. The disciples are thrown into complete mental and emotional confusion by the appearance among them of the Risen Lord. They are agitated and full of doubts, startled and frightened, torn between joy and disbelief. There is both continuity and discontinuity so that in the same experience they both recognise him and fail to recognise him. Look, he says, and touch, hands and feet, flesh and bones, eating fish: it is I, not a ghost.

But that physical proof of his Risen Glory is always only one part of the story. It is not any eye that can see this reality and it is not any hand that can touch him. It is happening within faith and that means a teacher is required to interpret and to explain the meaning of what they are experiencing. Jesus has a work of formation to do when he reveals himself after the Resurrection. We have seen it earlier in Luke 24, on the road to Emmaus, where Jesus undertakes a work of teaching, opening the scriptures to them and opening their minds to the full meaning of the scriptures. 'Did not our hearts burn within us', they say later.

The same thing happens here, in the second part of Luke 24. It is not just a question of physical seeing and touching. He must speak to them again as a teacher and use his Risen Presence to confirm his interpretation of the scriptures just as he uses the scriptures to interpret his Risen Presence. 'This is what I meant', he says, 'when I taught you that everyting written about me in the law, the prophets and the writings, had to be fulfilled'. The scriptures in their entirety are about him, fulfilled in this event of his suffering, death and resurrection. It is not just a question of opening their eyes to see a new kind of physical reality, the glorious resurrected body. It is also a question of opening their minds to understand the scriptures, to see the full meaning of the scriptures for the first time.

So they become witnesses, people who can say not just 'I have seen him' but people who can say also 'I have come to see the meaning of his death'.  They can say 'I have come to understand the promise contained in the scriptures and its fulfillment in Jesus the Christ, the Holy One, the Just One, the Prince of Life'.  We see this apostolic preaching underway in today's first reading. The message of the resurrection cannot be told without reference to the God of the ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Everything needs to be seen in a new light. It is common enough to say that the Resurrection casts a fresh light back on the ministry and teaching of Jesus. But what these readings today teach us is that the Resurrection of Jesus casts a fresh light back on the whole story, right back to the very beginning, to the creation of the world, the calling of a people, the promise of salvation renewed across the centuries.

'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead'. The pattern of Word and Event is found also here, then, at the very heart of the Christian experience, where we are asked to believe that Jesus is indeed risen from the dead. It is not just a crude event but something happening in accordance with the scriptures. It is not just an interpretation of a text, as if Christianity were simply a kind of poetry, a work of literature and nothing more. This interpretation of the scriptures, this opening of our eyes and minds to the truth they contain, is based on the apostolic preaching, the witness of those who saw and heard, touched him and ate with him after he had risen from the dead. It is Event and it is Word, already, from the very beginning.

The Resurrection of Jesus is not just a piece of magic to dazzle and intrigue us. Nor is it simply a revelation of what is to come at another time and in another place. Faith in the Risen Lord transforms things here and now, this present body, these present relationships, my actions and dispositions. It is not just a question of waiting for some future illumination but of new meaning, new light, and new possibilities for living where we are now and as we are now.

The Lord is truly risen, alleluia! Resurrection faith encourages us to re-think our past, reading it back in this new light of the resurrection. Resurrection faith calls us to repentance in the present, that we might open our minds to the truth being freshly revealed to us. Resurrection faith enables us to know God by keeping his commandments, so that his love comes to perfection in us.

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