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The 3rd Sunday of Easter Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Let’s first look at today’s first reading. We can find meaningful and significant expressions there. St. Peter employs his amazing speech from collective memories that the Jewish people are familiar with to the evident truth about Jesus’ resurrection. When he establishes his logic in his speech, he mentions some important expressions. “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” ‘Author’ here is archegos in Greek which means ‘captain,’ or ‘leader.’ When the audience hears this, a figure in the Old Testament must come to their minds: Moses. By using this expression, Peter wants to point out that Jesus is the new Moses who leads the faithful into the new Canaan, new life of eternal Jerusalem. Another expression he uses is “the Holy and Righteous One.” This expression is only applied to the Messiah whom the Israelites are waiting for. The third expression is “Servant of God.” This is often used in the Old Testament. This famous expression indicates Christ who is coming to save His people. The point is that Peter connects Jesus who is risen and alive to the Holy and Righteous Messiah, the new Moses, the Author of Life, the Servant of God, whom the Israelites are looking forward to. And He is Jesus who is glorified by being raised from the death.

The disciples experience the glorified body of Chris in the room according to today’s Gospel. This Gospel is the follow up of the story about the two disciples who are heading for Emmaus with disappointment and discouragement. After their encounter with the Risen Lord on the way, they come back to the rest of the disciples and report to them what they have experienced. That is when Jesus appears to them in the glorified body. The disciples’ encounter with Jesus Christ in today’s Gospel, I think, shows us the connectivity of our senses with transcendent experiences.

You know about Helen Keller. She could not hear and see. An action of touch was the only way to connect her to the world. Anne Sullivan helped this young blind, deaf, and mute girl by letting her touch and feel her face, eyes, cheeks, and mouth. And Anne brought the world to the girl by leading her to touch trees, water, grass, sand, rocks and so on. Helen came to know the world by touching. Her sense of touch is the connectivity with the knowledge of the world. I think this is exactly what is happening in the room where the disciples are struggling with the disbelief in the presence of the Risen Lord.

The Lord appears in the middle of the disciples and says, “peace be with you.” Jesus is trying to appeal to the disciples’ sense of seeing and hearing. But they are terrified because they think what they are seeing is a ghost. And then Jesus leads them to the world of touching, saying, “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” This reminds me of a famous picture, “The Incredulity of St. Thomas,” painted by an Italian Baroque Painter, Caravaggio. You probably have seen the painting. In the painting, Thomas puts his finger into Jesus’ wound of his side. Two disciples beside Thomas stick their heads out and look at the wound. Of course, Jesus also lowers His head and looks at the wound. By touching the wound, St. Thomas is brought up to the level of acquiring the invisible belief and transcendent experience of the resurrection.

Our senses are deeply related to our spirituality. We are physical beings. We see, hear, touch, taste and smell and these senses take us to transcendent experience. God talks to us through our physical contact and events. The physical reveals something that transcends it. Pope John Paul II said, “The body reveals the person. The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine.” The body--the physical is not superfluous. We are physical beings. The body makes visible the invisible. The Risen Christ shows Himself in the middle of the disciples and lets them see, hear, touch Himself so that they might be taken up to spiritual belief in God and transcendent love toward the world.

I’d like to say this is more Sacramental. A Sacrament is the visible signs of invisible grace. Baptism brings us invisible salvation through the pouring of visible water. Sacred Confirmation oil is a visible seal of the invisible Holy Spirit. Eucharist is the invisible presence of Jesus Christ in the appearance of bread and wine. We experience spiritual presence and blessings through the visible Sacraments. This Sacramental experience is what the disciples have in the encounter with the glorified Jesus. And furthermore, this experience changes the disciples’ life and faith.

Today’s Gospel tells us some expected changes that the disciples have through the Sacramental experience of the glorified Lord. And these changes are what we are supposed to have in the season of Easter. First, Jesus brings us an end of fear. “Peace be with you,” Jesus says. No more should our lives be characterized by fear; fear of death, fear of God’s retribution, or fear of powerlessness in our lives to overcome darkness. As we contemplate Christ and entrust ourselves to Him, we will see a diminishing of fear and an up-surge of peace filling our beings.

The second change is the commission from Jesus: “Repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” This commission gives us purpose and direction for our lives. We are witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. We are supposed to proclaim it until the end of the world. Jesus will walk with us in the form of bread and wine. We have no fear. We walk the journey with the joy of spiritual gifts in touching, seeing, tasting, and hearing Jesus’ presence. And by achieving this mission, we believe we will be glorified at the end like Jesus Christ. Let us ask the Risen Lord to give us blessings to recognize the Sacramental signs of resurrection in our lives so that we are commissioned to proclaim our Savior to the world.

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