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Lk 24:35-48 – The Appearance to the Disciples in Jerusalem
Third Sunday of Easter
Sunday Gospel Reflection

The Church in her Catechism teaches: “The resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of the Christian faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the First Christian community; handed as fundamental by Tradition; established by the document of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with cross” (cf. CCC 638).

Simply explained, the resurrection of Jesus is so central to our Christian faith because if Christ did not rise from the death our faith is worthless, our teachings and preaching are useless (see 1 Cor 15:17). The resurrection of Jesus is also so central to the salvation we strive, hope and pray for because we are saved not only when we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord but also when we believe in our hearts that Jesus who suffered and died on the Cross rose on the third day (see Rm 10:9). If Christ did not rise from the dead, then, salvation is not possible. Lastly the resurrection of Jesus is also so central to the building up, spreading of and the continuation of the Church established by Christ here on earth. If Christ did not rise from the dead there would be no more disciples left now. There would be no more Church now.

The resurrection of Jesus is so relevant and meaningful to our Christian faith, salvation and the building up, spreading of and the continuation of the Church but there are theories which had been made attempting to show that the resurrection of Jesus was a fraud or a  myth concocted by the disciples many years later.

One among them is the spiritual resurrection theory. This is the view that Christ’s resurrection was not a real physical resurrection. Proponents of this theory assert that Christ’s body remained in the grave and His real resurrection was spiritual in nature. It was only told this way to illustrate the truth of spiritual resurrection, that is, that Jesus resurrected only in the hearts and minds of the believers by virtue of faith.

How do we refute this? It is clearly wrong to assert that the dead body of Jesus remained in the tomb and like any other dead human body underwent the natural process of decomposition. Considering the biblical account, the physical body of Jesus did disappear from the tomb. If you still remember the first visit of Mary Magdalene early in the morning of Sunday, she only found an empty tomb. She though that somebody has stolen the body of Jesus.

When this was reported to Peter and John they immediately came to see the tomb of Jesus. They found the empty tomb and the undisturbed linen wrappings that covered the body of Jesus and also the soudavrion, the piece of cloth that had covered Jesus’ head, not lying with the other wrappings, but rolled up in one place by itself. But they never found the body of Jesus.

Basically the issue concerns the positioning of the graveclothes as seen by Peter and the other disciple when they entered the tomb. Some have sought to prove that when the disciples saw the graveclothes they were arranged just as they were when around the body, so that when the resurrection took place the resurrected body of Jesus passed through them without rearranging or disturbing them. In this case the reference to the soudavrion being rolled up does not refer to its being folded, but collapsed in the shape it had when wrapped around the head.

All that the condition of the graveclothes indicated was that the body of Jesus had not been stolen by thieves. Anyone who had come to remove the body (whether the authorities or anyone else) would not have bothered to unwrap it before carrying it off. And even if one could imagine that they had (perhaps in search of valuables such as rings or jewelry still worn by the corpse) they would certainly not have bothered to take time to roll up the facecloth and leave the other wrappings in an orderly fashion!

After Peter went ahead and entered the tomb, the Beloved Disciple, who had arrived there first, also entered. When he saw the graveclothes in the condition described in the previous verse, he saw and believed. What was it that the Beloved Disciple believed (since v. 7 describes what he saw)? the Evangelist intends us to understand that when the Beloved Disciple entered the tomb after Peter and saw the state of the graveclothes, he believed in the resurrection, i.e., that Jesus had risen from the dead.

If it was only a spiritual resurrection, then, what happened to the body? Did anyone discover and get custody of any of the remains of Jesus? History shows there was a body there and it disappeared. No one was able to produce the body nor disprove the resurrection.

By itself, the tradition of the “empty tomb” does not prove anything. But when linked to the Risen Christ’s appearances, it is confirmatory of the resurrection (cf. CCC 640). Indeed, the personal appearances of Christ following His resurrection are another overwhelming historical proof. The women and the disciples saw, heard, and even touched the Lord. In fact, 500 brethren saw him at one time (1 Cor. 15:6). Furthermore, the risen Lord even ate with them for two times as reported by the Gospel.

Today’s gospel narrative is about the appearance of Jesus to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus came from Jerusalem where Jesus was arrested, imprisoned, punished, crucified and died on the cross. There were filled with sorrow, pain, fear, despair and disillusionment over the death of Jesus whom they considered to be the promised Messiah who set them free from the dominion and oppression of the Roman Empire. It was at this moment of crisis when Jesus suddenly appeared and joined them as they journey towards Emmaus.

As they were on their way to Emmaus, Jesus explained to them that everything that had happened (passion, death and resurrection of Jesus)  in the life of Jesus is a fulfillment of biblical prophecies and in accordance with the Scriptures. Whey they reached the place, they invited Jesus to stay with them because it is nearly evening and the day is almost over. So Jesus went in to stay with them. There and then while he was with them at the table he took bread, broke it, and it gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.

The disciples hearts were burning inside when Jesus spoke to them on the road and their  eyes were only fully opened and recognized the Lord during the breaking of the bread. It was during the breaking of the bread that the disciples’ sadness, fear, despair and slowness of understanding are transformed into joyful, fearless and enthusiastic recommitment to  the person, life, works and mission of Jesus. Indeed, the Risen Christ is present and recognized  when the Scriptures is proclaimed , when the bread is broken.

The journey of the two disciples towards Emmaus is, at first, a journey of sorrow, pain, fear and despair. But when they recognized Jesus, the Risen Lord, through the breaking of word and the breaking of the bread the journey towards Emmaus is a journey of encountering, discovering and welcoming the risen Lord into their hearts in faith. It becomes a journey from sorrow to joy, from fear to courage, from ignorance to faith, from despair to hope.

Jesus had been with his disciples all the way, and they did not recognize Him. Isn’t this our life too. We fail to recognize how close the Lord is to us all the time. Maybe we don’t even recognize him in the breaking of the Bread, the Eucharist and in the breaking of the Word. Maybe we don’t even recognize him in the person of the priest and in the people around us especially the poor, the needy and the suffering. Maybe we don’t even recognize him in the Bread that we eat during communion and the Blessed Sacrament inside the Tabernacle.

Every time we celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ which he entrusted to the Church to perpetuate his saving sacrifice on the cross and in order to apply the fruit of redemption to all men and women of all ages and of all nations, let us ask God to open our eyes so that we may be able to acknowledge him in the person of the priest, in the words being proclaimed, in the Eucharistic bread and wine especially during the elevation of the body and blood of Christ, communion, holy hour and Eucharistic adoration, and lastly, in our neighbor especially in the poor, the needy and the suffering.

Then let us also exert all our efforts to make our Eucharistic celebration active, conscious and full in order to make it meaningful and fruitful to the extent that we will be nourished, strengthened and empowered by the words of God and the Eucharist which is a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity,  a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us” (SC 47).


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