19 April 2015
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
The Lord Jesus appeared to his apostles on a few occasions after the resurrection. Today’s gospel reading presents a description of one of these encounters. He stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you”. As on previous occasions, the first words that Jesus says to his frightened and disbelieving disciples after his resurrection are Peace be with you. No words of condemnation, no criticism or vengeance on the part of Jesus towards his companions who abandoned him earlier during his most trying moment, but only words of forgiveness, pardon, acceptance and friendship: Peace be with you. This is our God, who is not a stern judge or policeman bent on punishing us for all our sins and mistakes, but a Father who forgives us and offers us his pardon.
Jesus appeared to his apostles in order to dispel their fears. Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have. It was the same Jesus who died on the cross that appeared to the apostles. The risen Lord is no phantom or hallucination – he is real and truly alive. The event seems too good to be true and therefore Christianity is not based upon the imagined events of some inspired men, but on the experience of those who encountered Jesus Christ and who witnessed these events.
During this encounter Jesus invited his apostles to look, touch, see and even eat with him. All these actions are a part of our daily lives. God humbled himself to the point of sharing our existence with us just to remain close to us and as familiar to our life experiences as possible. Later on the apostles in their preaching will mention as proof of the resurrection of Christ that they …ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead (Acts 10:41).
These words of Christ also resonate today for us: Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Each of us can ask ourselves why we continue to have our questions about the Lord and often remain troubled? If you are not a ghost then who are you Lord? Are you just an occasional nice feeling I experience? A myth or some historical however wonderful figure of the past? Or are you a habit that I repeat once a week? Not much more than a ghost or imaginary idea that I can only wish were true? No, Christ is not a ghost who wishes to frighten people, he is our peace, the present and the future of our lives. He is the Word of life that we live by. A friend easily reached and lover of our souls, who I have come to know personally through faith.
The Lord then taught his disciples and opened their minds in order to understand the Scriptures: Everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled. God’s plan has been fulfilled in Christ. This is the way we can encounter Christ today. It is in prayer, through Sacred Scripture and the Sacraments. Each and every one of us can have the same encounter of faith today with the risen Lord. It is truly a joy and very comforting to know that our Lord and God is a living God, who is alive today and who wants to be a permanent part of our lives.
Jesus came into the world to fulfil the Father’s plan of salvation and he brought it to completion through his death and resurrection. Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. All the prophets foresaw that the Messiah was destined to suffer. This was part of God’s plan of redemption for mankind. As Jesus had to suffer, we too must also accept the crosses and difficulties that come into our lives. This is not a fatalistic approach to life’s problems but a willing sacrifice made out of love towards God who accepted the humiliation of the cross so that we might live. It is also the way we participate in Christ’s victory over sin and death, in order to experience the fullness of our existence that leads to new life and eternity.
The Lord concludes with the words: You are witnesses of these things. The apostles were the ones who looked upon Jesus, who knew him before his death and saw him after his resurrection, those who spoke with and ate with him. They witnessed his many miracles, heard his preaching and saw his love in action. They were the first to be commissioned by the Lord to continue his work to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. The invitation is now offered to us as well, to encounter Christ through faith and allow ourselves to be touched by his mercy that provides us with lasting peace and joy. At the same time we too are sent out by the Lord to be his witnesses and to touch him by reaching out to our brothers and sisters, especially to the poor and needy, because God has taken upon himself the face of all the men and women of the world, and humanity has thereby become God’s presence amongst us.