Kate Barrett | Thursday, April 20, 2006
Again and again in the readings for daily Mass this week, people touched by Jesus after his resurrection are filled with gratitude at their encounter with him. The Gospels contain story after story of the risen Lord coming back to his followers and in various ways, bestowing gifts upon them. He appeared to Mary Magdalene in accounts from Matthew’s and John’s Gospels, and she, “fearful yet overjoyed,” did him homage and ran to the disciples to tell them the wonderful news. We hear also the story of the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and who listened to him explain the Scriptures and recognized him as he broke and blessed the bread at their table. When they ran back to Jerusalem to tell the others, Jesus appeared again, eating with them and giving them the gift of his peace. Simon Peter found himself with a net so full of fish he could barely drag it ashore, and when he did, Jesus even had breakfast ready and a nice fire going. Each of these stories contains a common element: that the people involved didn’t recognize Jesus. Sometimes it took just a moment to figure it out, as when Mary knew him by the sound of his voice. Others, such as the disciples on the road to Emmaus, walked and talked with Jesus for perhaps miles and then finally understood as they shared the meal together. The identity of the mysterious stranger on the shore eventually clicked for Simon Peter and his fellow fishermen (the record-setting haul of fish helped), but John’s Gospel tells us that they were afraid to ask him if he was in fact the Lord.
Because we so often resemble Jesus’ disciples in our hesitant, bumbling and error-prone attempts to follow him, this would be a good time to wonder how often Jesus has appeared to us, offering the gifts of his presence and peace, and how often we too have failed to recognize him. Jesus has found us, just as he went out and found the disciples following his resurrection. He sought them out and revealed himself through the stories of Scripture and the breaking of the bread. Sound familiar? We too can find Christ present at Mass through the Scripture readings and the Eucharist. Just as his followers and beloved friends did in the joyful, exciting days after he rose from the dead, we too can become wholeheartedly aware of Jesus’ presence in all the moments of our lives, beginning with our prayer and worship. The unexpected as well as the routine, the fearsome and the disappointing; all can be opportunities to search for Jesus’ presence and loving gifts. We ought to be able to look at life all around us with enthusiasm and with hope in these resurrection days. Jesus’ resurrection from a cruel and humiliating death teaches us, if we are aware that he – even on this very day – is seeking us out, that he hasn’t yet met a disappointment he can’t turn to hope, a sorrow he can’t infuse with joy, an indifferent heart he can’t fill with gratitude. Let us allow ourselves to be “found” by the Lord through our heartfelt prayers, through our participation in the Eucharist and through hopeful watching for his presence all around us. Then we too can, as Jesus asks of us, “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
Kate Barrett is the director of resources and special projects for Campus Ministry. She can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.