‘God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witnesses to this. Now raised to the heights by God’s right hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.” Peter’s address at Pentecost was something more than the confident declaration of Christ’s bodily Resurrection. It was the proclamation that, through Christ’s death and Resurrection, a sinful world had been set free.
Israel’s long history had more than demonstrated the underlying enslavement of a sinful world. Despite the frequently renewed calls to holiness, a people created for the love of God were held in a power that would always thwart their longing to respond. When we choose sin we too are held in a similar power. Our turning from God’s love becomes an enslavement, an inability to love. It was through the Holy Spirit, poured out in Christ’s Resurrection, that we are set free. The Father did not abandon his Son to the power of death. Nor does he abandon us to lives that have died to a Father’s love. Christ is risen, he lives in us! It is through his Spirit that we can pray the fulfilment of the psalmist’s prayer: “For you will not leave my soul among the dead. You have made known to me the way of life, you fill me with gladness through your presence.”
The response of those who heard Peter’s words was, in itself, a testimony to Christ’s risen presence. What they saw and heard, was, in Peter’s words, an outpouring of the Spirit. In recent days we have rejoiced in the canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. What we have witnessed in these saints has been the power of the Risen Lord at work in believing hearts, a power that reached beyond their frailty to embrace the whole world. May our eyes be opened to that same redeeming power at work in our homes, our parishes and our world.
The narrative of the Lord’s appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus is a lesson in discernment. Reading between the lines, the attitude of the disciples had been one of abandonment. Christ had gone from their lives, preventing them from recognising the Lord who shared their journey. They even recounted the reports of the women who had reported that Christ was alive. Words alone had not been enough to fill the emptiness of their hearts.
During the Easter celebrations we have heard the proclamation of Christ’s death and Resurrection. We continue the journey of life, but, if our lives are to be changed, there must be something more than words. Like those disciples long ago, we must, in humble prayer, press the Lord to remain with us. Frequently we fail to recognise his presence, but with them we must long to hold on to that presence. “Now while he was with them at the table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him.”
Let us never be afraid to confess that our eyes are frequently closed, that alone we cannot discern the presence of the Lord. Let us cling to the promise of the Eucharist, that here the Risen Lord himself opens our lives to his presence.