B Cycle – 3rd Sunday of Easter 21
Why are you troubled? It seems to me that life is full of things that trouble us. In today’s world, each week is filled with enough societal upheaval to last a lifetime. On top of that we have our own troubles raising children in today’s world and the uncertainty in the economy, due to the pandemic with the shutdown of businesses and schools. We have health issues and concerns about our aging parents. We could keep going on about the troubles we have because life is filled with them.
That was not the point of the question posed to the disciples by Jesus. They were troubled by his appearance to them because they could not understand what was going on. They seem to have forgotten how just a short time before this encounter he had made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread. He had walked with them and he opened the scriptures to them. Their hearts burned within them as they connected the scriptures with the events occurring during his passion and death. They had run back to tell the disciples they had seen the Lord. Why are they now troubled by his appearing to them again?
The fact they are troubled and terrified should not surprise us because we know from the scriptures the disciples were often confused by the words and actions of Jesus. They often lacked understanding and yet they believed he was the Messiah foretold by the prophets. The issue is they could not grasp what the mission of the Messiah was all about forgiveness of sins.
We still have that problem today and we like these disciples struggle with what we know and how to respond. Just when we think we got it down pat, Christ comes to us and challenges us to continue to go deeper. Cast your nets into the deep was not just words to the disciples. They are spoken to us, inviting us to trust him and to plunge deeper into a spiritual life guided by him. Jesus is challenging us to dive deeper into the meaning of his life death and resurrection so we can begin to live our lives with the knowledge we are forgiven.
If you take the time to read the bible accounts of his resurrection and the events leading up to Pentecost, you will discover why it took more than the appearances of Jesus for them to gain understanding and to become bold believers. There is a message for us in their struggles to discover the meaning of his death and resurrection. I am convinced these events are meant for us to discover our own understanding of how his death and resurrection impacts us.
We are in many ways like these disciples who are struggling with how the penalty for our sins was borne by Jesus. We easily profess that fact as a spiritual truth, yet we continue to try to earn God’s favor and try to lessen the impact of our sins. It seems we are not certain the death and resurrection of Jesus means total and absolute forgiveness. We like these disciples need some proof; we need to touch Jesus. The amazing thing is he is inviting us to do just that as we receive him in the Eucharist. We are invited to do that when we encounter him in the scriptures. We are invited to do that each time in our prayer and worship.
Jesus is not watching us from the heavens, seated at the right hand of God. He is present to us each day, knocking on the door of our heart, waiting for us to respond and invite him into our hearts. We need to stop doing what those disciples were doing, talking about Jesus as if he is not present to us and instead listen to him and allow him to make our hearts burn within us. We need to invite Jesus to touch our eyes as he did Bartimaeus, to touch our ears as he did the deaf, to embrace us as he did Peter, and to breath the Holy Spirit into our hearts. We need to seek a deeper relationship with Jesus, one that goes beyond faithful attendance at mass. We need to move beyond what is comfortable for us and step into the unknown world of discipleship.
Salvation by the death of Jesus should not be doubted, nor should it be comfortable and without challenges. Believing in Jesus should be challenging and should continue to deepen in trust by following the promptings of the Holy Spirit who knows exactly how to open our eyes and hearts. The truth is that this unknowing of the cost to us of following Jesus is part of the challenge of faith. The deeper we go, the more the call to go deeper. That is what troubles us because we can never get comfortable with where we are now. What should be our motivation to move forward is the knowledge of how the past steps we made have brought us more peace and more certainty about the love of God and our place in his kingdom.
That challenge is what is happening in this gospel story and to these disciples. Their first encounter on the road to Eumaeus was so great they ran back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples.
Now they are being invited to more and because there is more to experience and more God desires them to experience. As they grow, they will be capable of explaining the meaning of his death and resurrection to others. They will grow in understanding and will become bolder and tap into the power of God available to them as disciples. If we embrace the salvation gained for us by Jesus, we will know with certainty we are loved, and we will understand our own call to give witness to our faith. We will grasp the truth of how God desires for us are greater than we can imagine.