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The word this week

How are we, who have never seen Christ, to recognise his presence among us?

Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118; 1 Pet 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31 (Year A)

By on Thursday, 24 April 2014

“You did not see him, and yet you love him; and still, without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe, and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward.”

Throughout the world we celebrate Easter as Christ’s presence in the heart of every believer. His new life transforms our homes, our families and our Church. We who have never seen Christ are touched by the power of his love. In his presence we are carried beyond the wounds of the past. We who have loved so little are brought to life in his selfless love. We whose hope is so fragile are renewed in the unshakeable promise of his Resurrection.

A recurrent theme in the Resurrection narratives is the initial failure of disciples to recognise the Risen Lord in their midst. Until he called her by name, Mary, making her way to the tomb, mistook him for a gardener. The disciples who walked with him along the Road to Emmaus recognised him only at the end of the day, at the breaking of bread.

How are we, who have never seen Christ, to recognise his presence among us? The Acts of the Apostles, in its description of the earliest Easter communities, gives us the surest indication. “The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”

Christ’s presence is revealed to us not through speculation, but in lives that follow his paths, that are united in his love and, above all, are sustained by his presence in the celebration of the Eucharist. Let us never take each other for granted, for it is in our coming together that Christ is most surely revealed. Christ’s presence has the power to transform the sterility of selfish lives. An unbelieving world was brought to Christ through the selfless love displayed by those whose lives had been changed by his Resurrection. “The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed.”

Our complex, global society can never reproduce the simplicity of those early communities. We must, however, learn from a wisdom and understanding that was rooted in Christ’s presence. We are not defined by what we have and hold. On the contrary, what we insist on having and holding is ultimately the cause of poverty and division. We have been created anew in Christ’s selfless love, a love that seeks to give rather than receive. In recent days there has been much heated discussion about food banks, but can we doubt that here is a sure sign of the presence of our Risen Lord?

The true joy of the Gospel is a personal encounter with the Risen Lord. “Jesus came and stood among them, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again: ‘Peace be with you.’”

In prayer, in the Eucharist, and in the care that reaches out to the poor, we are in communion with the Risen Lord. In the strength of this encounter everything is possible. “As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit.”