Luke describes the meeting of the Risen One with his disciples as a founding experience. Jesus’ desire is clear. His work hasn’t ended with the cross. Raised by God after his execution, he contacts his own to start up a movement of «witnesses», capable of spreading his Good News to all peoples: «You are my witnesses».
It’s not easy to change into witnesses such men beaten down by confusion and fear. Throughout the whole scene, the disciples remain completely silent. The narrator only describes their inner world: they’re full of terror; they only feel disturbed and unbelieving; everything seems to them too good to be true.
It’s Jesus who will revive their faith. What’s most important is that they not feel alone. They must feel the fullness of life in their midst. These are the first words that they must hear from the Risen One: «Peace be with you… Why are those doubts stirring in your hearts?».
When we forget the living presence of Jesus in our midst; when we hide it with our initiatives; when sadness keeps us from feeling anything, much less his peace; when we share pessimism and unbelief back and forth with each other… we are sinning against the Risen One. A Church of witnesses isn’t possible that way.
In order to awaken their faith, Jesus doesn’t ask them to look at his face, but his hands and his feet. Let them see the wounds of the Crucified One. Let them always have before their eyes his love given unto death. He’s not a ghost: «It is I myself». The same one they have known and loved on the roads of Galilee.
Every time we try to base our faith in the Risen One on our endless and fruitless studies, we make him into a ghost. In order to meet with him we need to look at the story in the Gospels; discover those hands that blessed the sick and touch the children, those feet worn out by walking to meet the ones most forgotten; discover his wounds and his passion. It’s that Jesus who now lives raised up by the Father.
In spite of seeing them full of fear and doubts, Jesus trusts in his disciples. He himself will send them the Spirit that will sustain them. That’s why he entrusts them with prolonging his presence in the world: «You are witnesses to these things». They don’t need to teach sublime doctrines, but rather to share their experience. They don’t need to preach grand theories about Christ, but rather radiate his Spirit. They need to make it credible by their lives, not just their words. This is always the true problem of the Church: the lack of witnesses.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf