Homily for April 28, Thursday of the Octave of Easter
The encounter between Christ and the apostles that we heard described in today’s Gospel reading seems to have two fundamental goals.
First of all, Jesus wants to establish firmly for His followers the fact that He has truly risen from the dead. To this end, He invites them to touch Him. It makes you wonder how many of the apostles dare to take Him up on that offer and touch Him at this moment. Mary Magdalen had not hesitated; after all, she had been there at the foot of the cross, and had helped prepare His dead body for burial. Jesus even has to tell her to stop holding on to Him, since it’s not the last time she will see Him. The apostles, on the other hand, had mostly fled the scene of Jesus’ arrest. Perhaps they feel unworthy to touch His risen body now. Maybe their timidity to touch Him is one reason why He takes the additional step of eating in front of them.
Secondly, Jesus wants his disciples to truly become apostles. He “opens their minds to understand the Scriptures” and points out that they are the witnesses of how He fulfills the prophecies with His life, death and resurrection; they are the ones who must preach repentance for forgiveness of sins in His name.
Although it takes the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to get them to overcome their fear and insecurity, we see in today’s first reading that they do eventually become effective and energetic witnesses to Christ. They have been given knowledge of Christ and of the Scriptures, not just for their own sake, but in order to share it with the world. It’s not by chance that it is in Solomon’s Portico that they preach on this occasion. Solomon was the mouthpiece of wisdom in the Old Testament; the apostles are now spreading the Word of God, the teachings and person of Christ who is Wisdom itself. Their preaching corresponds fairly precisely with the mission they received from the risen Lord: Peter speaks of Jesus’ death and resurrection and exhorts the people to repent of their sins and believe, backing up his preaching with Old Testament prophecies.
We too have experienced the presence of the Risen Lord, albeit in a different way, without seeing Him or hearing Him speak directly. We too are called to spread the Good News. We are not all called to do so with miracles and public preaching. Nonetheless, each of us in our own way must be sure we are sharing the gift of our faith by living it with conviction and sharing it also in our words when it is appropriate. May God also help us with the gift of the Holy Spirit to be effective and energetic witnesses to Christ.