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Our Experience of the Risen Lord

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

The Gospel reading for today's Eucharist presents us with one of the alternative endings to St. Mark's Gospel. The original manuscript for this Gospel ends with the women running from the tomb frightened out of their wits. The evangelist records that they told nothing to anyone. If that had remained the fact, Christianity as we know it today would not exist.

As is the case with all news of great moment, it eventually works it way out of the shadows and becomes more widely known. This is obviously the case here. Returning to the manuscript after more details of the story of the empty tomb have emerged, the evangelist pens a few verses which summarize many of the various "appearances" that are recorded in the other canonical Gospels. The non-canonical Gospels, particularly the Gospel of St. Peter, mention even more appearances.

One thing should be eminently clear after a week of reading the various appearance stories. These are not "history book" facts. These are, rather, personal experiences of the Resurrection. Each story, written for a specific community or audience, emphasizes different aspects of the story. These are documents of faith. They are the results of the process of reflection undertaken by the Christian community after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Issues of "who, what, when, where, and why" cannot be answered through these stories. They require faith to be understandable.

In some ways, the human being craves clearly delineated plot lines and straightforward reporting. Our system of justice is based upon discovering the facts in order to make judgments. The human mind is comfortable with the logical, the well-reasoned, the explicit. However, the human soul looks at events through the lens of experience. When we read the stories of the Gospels, in particular the stories surrounding the discovery of the empty tomb, we instinctively remember those times in our lives when Jesus was very close to us, when we realized that we were in His presence. This is the way of faith. That faith is the foundation of our hope that we too will rise again.

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