Thursday in the Octave of Easter
(Acts 3:11-26; Luke 24:35-48)
There is an old joke about a messenger reporting to the apostles news of Jesus’ resurrection. The messenger first announced that the Lord indeed rose from the dead. Then the messenger continued that he wanted to speak to them about what happened in the garden on Thursday night. Luke’s gospel does not mention the disciples fleeing Jesus when he is arrested; nevertheless there is a sense in which their meeting Jesus after the resurrection is not pure pleasure.
The resurrection account we hear today establishes that Jesus rose from the dead in body as well as soul. He offers his flesh and bones, to be touched if desired, as proof that his disciples are not imagining his presence. Then he bites into a piece of fish as further evidence. The disciples can rejoice that their leader has returned. Now comes the hard part. The Scriptures, which foretold Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, also predicted that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name. As the chief witnesses to the wonders of the resurrection, the disciples inherit the responsibility of fulfilling this prophecy.
It is a formidable task for at least two reasons. First, the disciples must reform their lives in perfect conformity with the gospel. Dom Helder Camara once warned confirmed Christians, “Your lives may be the only gospel your sisters and brothers will ever read.” Second, many will resist the call to change their ways and will react violently against those who preach the need to do so. We, likewise, can be sure that just in living the gospel we will incur hostility at times.