We continue to read from the Gospel of St. Luke on this Easter Thursday. Yesterday we heard the story of the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. When they recognized Jesus, they immediately set off to return to Jerusalem to report to the rest of the disciples that they could corroborate the story that the women had brought them; namely, Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.
While they were telling of their encounter with Jesus, he shows up in their midst. Interestingly, even though they had just heard how Jesus had appeared to their fellow disciples, they were terrified by Jesus’ appearance in their midst. Jesus reassures them and asserts that they are not seeing a ghost. We can readily understand how they might have thought this since Jesus simply appeared in their midst.
While the disciples on the way to Emmaus came to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, this appearance story focuses their attention on his wounds as a source of identification. He bears the marks of crucifixion in his hands and his feet. In order to further reassure them that it is really he, he asks them for something to eat. Ghosts don’t eat.
This is one of two stories that focuses on the marks of the crucifixion as a means of identifying Jesus. The other story is that of Thomas which we will hear on Sunday. Even though Jesus is appearing to them in what theologians call a “glorified body,” he still bears the horrible wounds of the crucifixion. While we might wish that it were not so, Jesus carries with him this reminder that he had been abandoned, mistreated, condemned and executed. I am sure that this reminder would have been difficult for the disciples. At the time when Jesus needed them the most, they had run away. Even though the Gospel records that they had left everything to follow him, during his passion, they leave everything to get away from him. The irony is palpable.
All of us bear scars, both physical and psychological scars. Just as Jesus’ wounds define who he is, the one who gave his life for ours, our scars and wounds go a long way in defining who we are. However, like Jesus, we don’t have to let those scars and wounds control our lives. We can move beyond them. This has become very evident to me at this particular time in my life. On February 2, I had knee replacement surgery. Every time I get undressed, the scar from that surgery is very evident. However, because of the wonderful physical therapy that I have been receiving, I am moving beyond that surgery and will eventually be able to walk normally again. The same can be the case with our psychological scars. With the right “therapy,” we can move beyond the hurts that we have received at the hands of others. Just like the physical therapy that I am now receiving, however, it is important to remember that one has to “keep at it.”
Prayer is a form of therapy. Spiritual direction is another form. As we will hear in another appearance story later this week, forgiving others is yet another form of therapy. Moving on, going beyond, getting through the difficulties of our past takes time and effort. We may need a companion to help us just as I need a therapist for my physical exercises.
This Easter story is important on so many levels. Jesus sets an example for us of how to move beyond the passion and enjoy the fruits of the resurrection.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator