Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

(William Adolphe Bouguereau, The Holy Women at the Tomb, 1893)

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen." (Luke 24:1-5)

So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:29-32)

And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts 1:9-11)

So often we are looking for Jesus in all the wrong places. The women went to the tomb looking for a dead man when the One they sought was alive. The two men travelling on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus who was with them on the journey. They only recognized him in the breaking of the bread, in the Eucharist. At the Ascension, the apostles are looking at Jesus leaving them, but He is not really leaving them.

I am reminded of a story that a priest told during a homily about a little boy preparing for his first Communion. This boy knew where to look for Jesus. Another priest was not convinced that the little boy understood enough about the Eucharist to take his first Communion. However, in talking with the priest, the boy pointed to the crucifix in the church and said, "That looks like Jesus but is not Jesus." Then pointing to the tabernacle, the boy said, "That does not look like Jesus but is Jesus." Then, pointing to the priest himself, the boy said, "That does not look like Jesus but is Jesus. Only fatter." The boy understood the crucifix to be only an artistic portrayal of Jesus, the Eucharist to be the Real Presence of Jesus, and the priest when saying mass to be standing in persona Christi.

Echoing Matthew 25:31-46, Mother Teresa said: "I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper's wounds I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?" (Carol Kelly-Gangi, editor, Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom, p. 19). As with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus is in front of us every day in the people we encounter. We merely need the eyes of the little boy or Mother Teresa to see them and Him.

Jesus is not hiding from us. Yet we seem to look for Him where He isn't and miss Him where He is. May this great Easter season we are embarking upon fill us with the grace we need to seek first the kingdom, and then we will find the King.

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