This is the message an angel gave to the women at the empty sepulcher. They had gone there the first day of the week, at dawn, to anoint the body of Jesus. There had not been time to prepare the body properly for burial on Friday, since the Sabbath of the Jews began at sundown. The women ran and told all this to the apostles. But “their story seemed to them like nonsense and they refused to believe them. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. He stooped down but could see nothing but the wrappings. So he went away full of amazement at what had happened.”
The empty tomb, in itself, was no proof of the resurrection of Jesus. What convinced the disciples were the appearances of Jesus, vivid experiences of the risen and living Christ. And these experiences not only convinced them personally but filled them with so much joy and a tremendous desire to proclaim this good news to the world. These experiences of the risen and living Christ gave them immense courage to be witnesses of Christ even when it resulted in their death.
Now our faith in the risen Christ is founded on the testimony of the women and the apostles. But, also, our personal faith is confirmed by our own experiences of the living Christ. How does Christ reveal his living presence to us?
The risen Christ is present to us and, at times, we feel his presence, in the same ways that Christ manifested himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
First, Christ Jesus appeared to Cleopas and his companion in the form of a stranger. “In the course of their lively discussion, Jesus approached and began to walk with them. They saw him, but somehow did not recognize him.” How many times has Jesus not appeared to us in the guise of a stranger, an immigrant, a person in need, and we did not recognize him!
Secondly, Jesus presents himself to the disciples through the Word of God. “Beginning, then, with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to him.” Afterwards, reflecting back on this, “they said one to another, “were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” Have not our hearts also burned within us while hearing or reading the Word of God in the Bible? Or listening to an inspired and inspiring sermon?
Finally, the risen Christ manifested himself to the disciples in the breaking of the bread. “When Jesus seated himself with them to eat, he took bread, pronounced the blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him; whereupon he vanished from their sight.” How many times have we not sensed the presence of Christ in the breaking of the bread at mass and in our homes at the dinner tablewith our families!
To sense the presence of the risen Christ, we must see him in others—our family, our neighbors, the sick and elderly, children, the needy, immigrants, people of other races and cultures, even our enemies and share our lives with them.
Also, we must read, listen to and reflect upon the Word of God in the Bible and put it into practice. And finally, we must celebrate with faith, hope and love the breaking of bread—the Eucharist— with our Christian community united with the risen Lord. With Cleopas and his wife, we also insist:
“Stay with us, Lord. It is nearly evening— the day is practically over.”
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad!