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Christ’s revolutionary message

April 17, 2015
Sister Maria Catherine, OP

Often I am stuck thinking that in order to meet God I must set out on the road. Instead, I am shocked to find he’s coming to meet me. But like Aslan, he is not a tame lion. He often walks through walls, minds and hearts to reach me where I am.

Jesus reveals himself to his apostles when they are in community after the Resurrection. He approaches the whole group surprising them behind closed doors. He’s come to reassure them about the efficacy of his death by explaining how his resurrection works. “Why are you troubled?” Jesus bodily reaches out to them to give them certainty. “’Touch me and see’… and as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.”

The Lord goes on, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” As a reader, this drives me nuts. How did he open their minds? What realizations do they have that leave them amazed and full of a different kind of knowing? What changed in those moments? But I’m not privy to the playbook. Instead, like a good teacher, he gives me and the apostles a moment to process this, by asking an ordinary question, “Have you anything here to eat?”

Jesus is asking for them to believe, even as he stops to swallow some baked fish. “See, I’m really real,” he says to them. Believing in God is the appropriate response when I get a glimpse of his presence. Faith is man’s response to God who reveals himself (see CCC 166). There is a limit to doubting when the apostles see him doing ordinary, human activities.

He signals, too, that his resurrection leads to the possibility of our repentance, since “Christ died for us while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8). To emphasize how important this is, he ends with a statement that implies legal language. “You are witnesses of these things.” Just like Christ says, “where two or more are gathered in my name,” so we also require witnesses to give any credibility to a legal document. With the words he speaks in this passage, Jesus constitutionally ratifies their experience of God being man, walking among them, dying and rising. This gives them the authority to declare to others that they can be legally and definitively forgiven of past wrongs.

Jesus moves them from their small, intimate, maybe even individual experience of this miracle to a broader vision of his purpose. They can’t see it now, but Jesus shockingly passes on so much authority to them to do the very things he describes in these verses. The apostles will be a part of the fulfillment of his mission for “the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Christ’s message is radically new and revolutionary. Now instead of the law, which either makes allowance (or excuse) for my weakness in sinning or mercilessly abandons me to justice, Jesus’ resurrection gives the same law effectiveness in my own heart to work with his grace for my unburdening. Through the church’s sacraments, I can experience this freedom in grace.

In my own life, this passage reminds me of who God is and who the church becomes because of him. May we all use this Easter season to renew our desire to participate in the life of God’s grace in the sacraments of the church. To be one with the church is to be one with Christ and his saving resurrection.

Sister Maria Catherine is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, and teaches English at Marin Catholic High School.

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