The life of our Lord on earth did not end with the Resurrection. There still remained the important and difficult task of convincing these fearful, doubting apostles of his that he had
risen as he said he would. It wasn’t easy. It took forty days and many appearances to do this. The Gospels during this Easter Season have been about these appearances.
The important lesson for us in all of these appearances of the Risen Jesus is that the joy and the power of the Resurrection is not to be found in the empty tomb or in the testimony of someone else. It is to be found only in a personal encounter, with the Risen Jesus. The empty tomb did nothing for Mary Magdalene.
She thought that the gardener or someone else had taken the body away, and there was only tears, disappointment and sorrow. It was when Mary recognized and embraced the Risen Jesus that she experienced the joy and the power of the Resurrection.
Two disciples were on the road to Emmaus getting out of town. The empty tomb and the fact that some women told them that an angel said he had risen didn’t convince them either. Then they had an encounter with the Risen Jesus in the form of a stranger.
Finally, they recognize him in the breaking of bread and are so filled with joy that they turn around and hurry back to the city to spread the good news.
The empty tomb and the testimony of the others did nothing for the apostles either. They thought that it was all over. They locked themselves in a room for fear that they too would be crucified. Then they encountered the Risen Jesus. “Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, so I send you,” he said to them. Suddenly, these cowardly apostles are transformed into fearless martyrs who defy the chief priest and are willing to suffer death, “rejoicing to be found worthy to suffer something for the name of Jesus.”
Thomas was not with them when they encountered the Risen Jesus. The empty tomb and the witness of the other apostles didn’t convince him either. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the nail marks, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later the Risen Jesus appeared to the apostles again when Thomas was present and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side and do not be unbelieving but believe.” Thomas’ joy was evident in his answer, “My Lord, and my God.”
Paul was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He rejected Christ and persecuted the Christians. He was on his way to Damascus intent upon destroying the Christian community there when he encountered the Risen Jesus. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Paul asked, “Who are you sir?” He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
The joy and the transforming power of this personal encounter with the Risen Jesus was so great that he could say later, “With Christ I am nailed to the cross. I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me.”
And so it is with every one of us. The joy and the power of the Resurrection is not to be found in the empty tomb, the testimony of someone else or in the historical fact of theResurrection. It is to be found only in a personal encounter, with the Risen Jesus. A personal encounter with the Risen Jesus in the Eucharist, in the neighbor, in the events of our lives and deep within the insatiable desire of our heart.
This personal encounter with the Risen Jesus, of course, does not change human nature. It does not mean that all of a sudden we will have it all together. No, we will still be a bundle of contradictions. We will still experience the law of the body warring against the law of the mind.
This personal encounter with the risen Jesus does not change the world either. There will still be violence, injustice, corruption, war and evil in the world. We discipline ourselves and we work for justice. But we know that even our best efforts will fail. The power of the Resurrection does not change these things it TRANSCENDS them. It enables us to have peace in the midst of war, joy in the midst of sorrow, and life in the midst of death.
“We don’t know what tomorrow holds but we know Who holds tomorrow.”
(By Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.)