Meditation on This Week's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, April 26, 2009:
First Reading: Acts 3:12-19
Psalm: Psalm 4
Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-7
Gospel: Luke 24:36b-48
In this week's Gospel, we have another post-Resurrection appearance story, and what an odd story it is. In the post-Resurrection stories, Jesus has taken on supernatural capacities that he didn't really demonstrate before his crucifixion. Here, he suddenly appears (a few verses earlier, he has vanished after eating).
The disciples quite logically assume that they're seeing a ghost. Their senses, rooted in the rational world, can't make sense of what they're seeing and hearing. Those of us who spend our secular lives surrounded by people who are disdainful of the mystical might find ourselves more sympathetic to their plight.
Perhaps we've felt the same way. It's not hard to accept the pre-Resurrection stories of Jesus, at least most of them. We're not unaccustomed to hearing about humans who can do almost superhuman things: human rights crusaders, charismatic politicians, the fabulous doctor that we'd hate to lose. Just think of Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu, and Aung San Suu Kyi, and all those other people who might make us feel inadequate for just living normal lives. Some times, we lump Jesus in with those kinds of people, and we forget about the spiritual side of the Gospel. Even when Jesus performs spectacular miracles, they don't seem outside the range of possibility in our current day and age.
But these post-Resurrection stories don't let us dance away from Jesus' identity. We might know of someone who has been declared dead, maybe for a few minutes, and returned with stories of white lights and floating above one's body. But to die and lie in a tomb for 3 days and then come back to life? So far, no human has ever done that.
I like how these post-Resurrection stories, shrouded as they may be in mystery, are also still rooted in the earthy body-ness of Jesus. Jesus appears to people, and then he asks for food, which he eats. This evidence shows that he's not a ghost or a spiritual presence; doubters can't explain the post-Resurrection sightings with this claim. Jesus is still God Incarnate. His body still needs all the things our bodies need: food, liquid, sleep, a bath.
In this week's Gospel, Jesus again shows us a useful way of inhabiting our human bodies. He shows his scars, which might lead to some exchanging of stories, if the disciples didn't already know the story of how he got them. He shares food with them. He reminds them of their higher destiny and calls them to greater things.
Jesus is still here, reminding us of his scars and of the capacity to overcome those things that scar us. Jesus is still here, waiting to share a meal with us. Jesus is still here, reminding us that we are witnesses, that we are called to a far greater destiny than our tiny imaginations can envision.