This reflection is based on Luke 24:35-48.
From all indication, what we have today is a happy reunion of sorts: The disciples, disheartened and even traumatized by the horrible crucifixion and death of their Master, suddenly find him once again in their midst. To prove that he’s no ghost, the Risen Lord shows them the wounds in his hands and feet, and even takes a little midnight snack before their very eyes (It must have been around midnight, the two disciples having interrupted their supper and hurried back from Emmaus).
It’s Jesus’ way of telling his disciples: “It is I! I am real! And I’m back!”
There are, however, several significant back stories behind this apparently glad occasion. And our only clue from the account is Jesus’ somewhat surprising question to them: “Why are you troubled? Why do questions arise in your hearts?”
It seems that no one has rushed to embrace their beloved teacher; they haven’t exactly been jumping up and joy in exultation. Needless to say, they are shocked by the return of someone dead–who wouldn’t be?–but there is more to their disquiet.
For these same disciples have abandoned the Lord when he most needed them, scampering away the night of his arrest, not to mention Peter’s repeated denials to save his own skin. To top it all, the women’s talk of an empty tomb that very same day has been dismissed precisely as empty. “They did not believe,” Luke tells us simply in an earlier verse (24:11).
So when our Lord finally shows himself to the Eleven that night, there is a pretty large elephant in the room: the disciples’ desertion, denials, doubts, and disbelief. But the Risen Lord does not bother to point it out to them, and though he has every right to do so, neither does he accuse them of any of it. In fact, he shows up as soon as the Emmaus couple finishes their story, almost as if to prevent the Eleven from again expressing doubt and disbelief.
Instead the Risen One invites the Eleven to believe, going out of his way to show them the wounds in his hands and feet–and even demonstrating his appetite!
For me, this is the wonderful message of today’s Gospel: Not just that Jesus is indeed risen, but also that this Risen Lord allows nothing to stand in his way in inviting us to believe. Just as he can enter rooms despite locked doors, he will come into our hearts even if we have closed them ourselves with our grievous sins and tenuous faith. No desertion, no denial, no doubt, and no disbelief can shut the Lord away from us.
If this Easter you still find some doubts and disbelief in yourself, don’t lose heart. The Risen Lord won’t let them stand in his way. Let us thank the Lord for having a heart so forgiving and so magnanimous it refuses to give up on us despite ourselves.