Recently a prominent politician visited a Bolton primary school. He invited six-year old Lucy to read for him. Lucy wouldn’t read. To encourage her, he read the first line and invited her to read the second. She still refused. She was, it seemed, dumbfounded at the presence of this Westminster dignitary.
Today, as the risen victorious Jesus stands among them, his disciples are dumbfounded; agitated – their hearts a mixture of doubt and joy. They had heard the women’s story about the empty tomb; the report of what had happened on the road to Emmaus. A joy such as they had never experienced was growing in their hearts. Yet doubt persisted!
I am the one you have always known, says Jesus. “It is I, indeed”. “Look, my pierced hands and feet! Go on, touch them”. Having appealed to their senses, he appeals to their understanding. Was it not the message of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms, indeed of his own teaching, that “the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise again”? Above all, they should notice what was happening in their hearts. Just as the hearts of the two escapees to Emmaus “had burned within them”, so the joy welling up in the disciples’ hearts was the effect of Jesus’ divinity, comforting and strengthening them. “It’s OK”, says the risen Jesus. “I am here. All will be well.” Jesus offers joy and peace, elsewhere unavailable! “It is OK. I am here”
Yet there is more. You are witnesses to my life, death and resurrection, says Jesus to his disciples; to the saving events that are taking place among you; to my teaching. Truly they were faithful witnesses. Many of Jesus’ first disciples were martyrs. They gave their lives for their faith in Jesus. The word martyr, of course, simply means witness. And so we are left with the question. “Do we wish to live our lives in such a way that we give witness to our faith in Jesus?” I think the answer is “Yes”.
Ian Tomlinson SJ