The joy of Easter is one that embraces the whole person, body, mind and soul, because Christ rose bodily from the dead. He burst from the tomb in the fullness of his humanity, transfigured, radiant with the divine life – the very wounds he suffered becoming for us a place of mercy.
There has been much to preoccupy and frighten us all this last year, and there will be challenges as we emerge from the pandemic that will require us to be in good heart. As we prepare to celebrate Easter, I invite you to reflect on two of Jesus’ Resurrection appearances and draw strength from them.
Cleopas and his friend were preoccupied and frightened as they walked to Emmaus. For all they could see, Jesus’ death was the end of everything they had hoped for. They were traumatised and almost certainly afraid that they might suffer the same fate as their Lord. You can imagine the sad silences between their questions as they walked and talked. When Jesus appeared, they were too preoccupied with the terrible things that had happened to see who it was that “came near and went with them” (Luke 24. 15). The very one they longed for was next to them and they did not see him!
But as they neared Emmaus they urged him to stay with them and it was only in exercising the gift of hospitality and at the precise moment this apparent stranger took bread, which he broke and blessed and shared with them, that they recognised the risen Christ, physically with them.
In a similar way, when the disciples encountered the risen Lord by the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he said to them, “Come and have breakfast”, this time urging the disciples to receive hospitality and share in a meal together of bread and fish which he prepared lovingly for them. St John continues, “Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord” (John 21. 12-13).
They knew, not only because they had seen him before, but because of the way he cared for them. The Resurrection did not happen online! Jesus met the disciples physically in person and cared for the needs of the body as well as the soul.
We will all need to regain confidence as we emerge from this pandemic. The process of recovery will require us, gently, to let go of our fear and preoccupation, being mindful always of those who remain vulnerable. As we begin to emerge from the restrictions of the last year we will each have a wonderful opportunity to rekindle the gift of hospitality. St Benedict was wise when he instructed those who follow his rule to receive guests “as Christ” (Rule of St Benedict, chapter 53). We have not been allowed to receive anyone – neither friends, nor family, nor stranger. But when it is safe, we must again open wide our homes and our hearts to others.
So, my friends, be confident, be of good courage and be in good heart. For Christ is with us and he is risen indeed. Alleluia! I wish you the great joy of a Happy and Blessed Easter.