Homilette for Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:1-10; Luke 24:13-35)

Some of us may be disappointed that the gospels do not give a physical description of Jesus. Try as we might, we never find a word about his stature, his complexion, or any distinguishing mannerism, other than that he spoke with authority. Once a journalist wrote that he was short since the Gospel of Luke mentions that Zacchaeus has to climb a tree to see him. However, the more common interpretation of this story is that Zacchaeus is the little guy.

Perhaps since Jesus is so nondescript in the gospels, it should not strike us as altogether peculiar that his disciples do not recognize him at first glance after the resurrection. Both Mary Magdalene in yesterday’s gospel reading from St. John and the two disciples today in Luke’s gospel fail to distinguish the Lord from ordinary people. Until he speaks with his old authority, that is. Then his words go straight to the heart. Mary is lifted out of her fog of grief when he mentions her name. The disciples too achieve insight as he blesses and breaks the bread.

We are used to seeing pictures of a long-haired, blue-eyed, bearded Jesus, but these are surely idealized portraits. Rather than seek his image, we should listen for his words. He calls us by name in Baptism as surely as he calls Mary Magdalene in the graveyard. He pronounces the same blessing over the bread and wine in the Eucharist as he does for the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Like these disciples, we are commissioned to tell others of his resurrection. As peculiar as it may sound, we are to say that he is the one whom we visit at mass. We hear his words in the gospel, and we shake his hand in the breaking of the bread.