Recognizing the Risen Christ

Who does not love the gospels we read this week, with their stories of meeting the Risen Christ? How one’s whole being thrills with Mary Magdalene as she hears the Lord calling her by name or with those weary disciples, their hearts burning within them as the scriptures are explained to them on the road to Emmaus, and then that amazing moment of recognition as Jesus breaks bread with them. We shall see the Risen Christ on the sea-shore, put our hands into the mark of the nails, be questioned by him, be commissioned by him. We shall know him, yet not know him; recognize him yet still perhaps doubt. In a word, we shall be plunged into the mystery of the Resurrection — and it will all be new, strange, unsettling and the most profound joy we have ever known.

For most, the way in which we are celebrating Easter this year is without precedent. We have been discovering anew the power and holiness of the domestic church — making a chapel of our living room, an altar of our table and a lectern or pulpit of our tablet or smartphone. For some, live-streamed worship has taken the place of gathering physically with the parish community; for others, there has been a more conscious and regular participation in the ancient prayer of the Church known as the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office. Whichever it is, the intention is the same: to meet the Risen Christ, to adore him, to love him, to serve him. That is why, no matter how engaged we are with worship, we cannot neglect him in our brothers and sisters, many of whom are suffering terribly at this time.

For a cloistered nun like me, that poses a special challenge but it is one I suspect my older or less able readers may share. Yes, we can pray; but can we do anything practical to help those in need? For many of us the answer will be a disappointing ‘no’. We haven’t the money or resources, physical or otherwise, to help others directly. Happily, that also means we can’t pat ourselves on the back that we have done something good and worthwhile. We actually have to live our faith. The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus have an ambiguity that draws us in. We don’t see him healing or preaching. He just is; but he is in a way that is intensely alive and life-giving. I have a hunch that we who call ourselves his disciples are meant to be the same. We may not do very much, but through our prayer and our readiness to respond to the Lord, we are inviting the Risen Christ into the heart of a sick and suffering world which he alone can heal and give new life to. It is a humbler role than we might like, perhaps, but it is the one that will prove most fruitful.

We may not always recognize the Risen Christ as we would wish, but I’m confident he will always recognize us; and that is what matters. Cleopas and his companion walked seven long miles in Jesus’ company, but only recognized him when he himself chose to disclose himself to them. Let us be try to be ready for that moment in our own lives.

Audio version

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Easter Wednesday and Emmaus Moments

We all have Emmaus moments — times when we suddenly see and understand something previously hidden, or something we vaguely felt all along is revealed to be gloriously, unequivocally true. It is even more wonderful when we suddenly see not something but someone for the first time, as it were. It is an epiphany, a revelation; and seeing someone, really seeing them, is always to see something of God. Most of us will be very busy today. We’ll probably meet lots of people without truly meeting them at all: they will pass us in the street, drive past in a car or barely register as individuals in a crowd. Yet each one is a unique reflection of God, an expression of Christ ‘lovely in limbs not his.’ Let us give thanks for each one and ask a blessing on them as we pass.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Emmaus Moments

We read the Emmaus gospel twice during Eastertide, once during the Octave and again today, the third Sunday of Easter, but life is full of Emmaus moments: times when the veil is lifted and we see, as if for the first time, something that has been there all along but of which we had previously been unaware. These mini-revelations can become epiphanies, revelations of God himself.

Yesterday I went into the greenhouse to check on my seedlings and looked up to see the raindrops falling from the roof — beautiful iridescent drops of water, falling as thickly as those Julian of Norwich saw falling from the eaves of her house so many centuries ago. She likened them, if you remember, to herring scale, but what she was referring to were the drops of blood that fell from Christ’s head as he hung on the Cross. If you look, even here, on a rainy day in a quiet English village, you can can ‘see his blood upon the rose/and in the stars the glory of his eyes’. Emmaus moments are many.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Emmaus Every Day

The Emmaus story (Luke 24. 13-35) is much loved by Christians. Most of us long to have the scriptures opened to us by Jesus himself and one often hears people commenting along the lines of ‘If only . . . .’ The trouble with that particular ‘if only’ is that it is nonsense. The scriptures are ALWAYS opened to us by Jesus. Whether it be through prayerful reading by ourselves, with the grace of the Holy Spirit to assist us, or through the teaching of those entrusted with authority to do so, we can only make sense of the scriptures because Jesus reveals himself in and through them. He is present, not absent. We seem to find that very difficult to take on board. ‘What would Jesus do?’ we ask, forgetting that the real question is, ‘What is Jesus doing; what does he want to do through you/me/us/them?

I think today’s gospel is particularly encouraging for those of us who might be labelled ‘professionals’ in the religious sphere. We go around with our eyes half-closed sometimes, not expecting to be surprised. We miss the glory that is spread before us. Perhaps today we could open our eyes to the divine light a little more fully, a little more expectantly. The Risen Christ is here and now and walks with us every day.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail