On this third day after we have celebrated the great feast of the Resurrection of Christ, the scripture readings present us with two encounters with the Risen Christ.
In our Gospel we’re told of the encounter of two “former (?)” disciples of Jesus with the Risen Lord. It takes place on Easter Sunday afternoon. Clearly the disciples are discouraged, confused, perhaps even disillusioned. Their state of mind becomes apparent when they encounter a stranger on the road. He asks a general question about “what’s happening?” and they immediately pour out their painful story about the last days of Jesus. They include the unlikely testimony of the women who found the tomb empty that very morning but they’re still heading home convinced that the story is over.
The stranger turns out to be the Risen Lord and he chides them a bit for their lack of faith. He then reminds them of all that had been prophesied about the Messiah and shows them how Jesus had fulfilled all that had been predicted. They warm to the stranger and invite him to stay the night with them. As they break bread together they suddenly realize who the stranger is, the Risen Lord.
Their encounter heals them and they rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others that Jesus has truly risen, He lives!
A different kind of encounter with Christ is described for us in our first reading that comes from the Book of Acts. It happened months or even years later. It was an encounter not with a stranger but with two of Jesus’ closest friends, Peter and John. A man crippled from birth sees them about to enter the Temple and asks them for alms. Peter tells him that they don’t have much money to give him but are willing to give them what they do have, a living presence of Christ. In His name they heal his body and restore him to full health. He is beside himself with joy and gratitude. He witnesses to all at the Temple that day that his encounter with the Risen Christ restored him to a full life.
As we reflect on the meaning of Christ’s Resurrection that we are celebrating, these two stories invite us to realize that the Risen Christ comes into our lives even to this very day. He could be the stranger that restores our hope with his compassion and wisdom or even two friends or acquaintances who share so generously what they have, their faith in the Risen Lord. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus figured it out even though they didn’t recognize Christ at first. As did the man crippled from birth as new strength and energy flowed through his ailing body. Perhaps our prayer for today could be that we have the grace to recognize Christ in whatever way He comes to us in our daily life.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of retreats at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.