We Have Seen the Lord! Really!

First Communion 2008, Waynesboro VA.

Second Sunday of Easter

When Jesus appeared to his closest friends the day he rose from the dead, Thomas was not with them.  They did their best to tell him what had happened, but he would not believe them.  We can be sure they were overjoyed when they told him.  It would have been evident in their faces.  No longer were they sad and disheartened.  “We have seen the Lord!”  But Thomas’ response was to be expected.  If it had been any of the other apostles, they would have said the same thing.  If it had been any of us, we would have said the same thing.  “Unless I see … I will not believe.”

As we grow up in our Catholic faith, what we come to know and believe we learn primarily from our parents and family, from coming to church and paying attention in Christian formation.  What we come to know and believe we are told by people who claim to know and believe it themselves.  Sometimes they can be very convincing.  “We have seen the Lord!”  We can see it in their faces, we can hear it in their voices.  But sometimes, they only seem to be repeating what they heard someone else tell them.  “We have seen the Lord … maybe.  Wait, it could have been someone else.  Never mind.”  If they have truly seen the Lord as did Jesus’ closest friends that day he rose from the dead, they too would be filled with joy and gladness.  They would be filled with enthusiasm and conviction, much like they often are opening presents on Christmas morning, but even more!  They would be delirious with excitement as if they had won the lottery, and even more!  Instead, they look like they just saw a dead animal by the side of the road, or a zit, or a friend they don’t want to talk to.  Not really that excited.  And yet they expect us to get excited?  Why?

Today a group of our young people are approaching the Eucharistic table for the first time.  They have seen many of us do it every Sunday, that is, if we bring them to church every Sunday.  They have learned that the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  But it seems many adult Catholics no longer believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.  Simply telling young people will not be enough.  As did Thomas, they have to encounter the risen Jesus themselves.  They have to meet him in his Word and in his body the Church.  They have to see his nail marks and touch his wounds.  Jesus is risen from the dead and we are his witnesses, but only if we have encountered him ourselves, or we will not know what we are talking about, and we will not be able to tell them what the experience is like.  Jesus continues to invite us to recognize him when we listen to his Word, so we have to pay attention to his message.  We have to put into practice what he teaches us – about forgiveness, truth, compassion, discipleship and justice.  We have to recognize his wounds in our sisters and brothers who suffer, the poor, the outcast, the vulnerable, the broken.  So when we speak about the risen Jesus, they will see it in our faces and hear it in our voices.  They will see our joy and gladness, our enthusiasm and conviction.  And when we welcome them to the Eucharistic table, it is because we have seen the Lord, and we want them to encounter the risen Jesus for themselves, and hear his voice, and touch his wounds.

“We have seen the Lord!” But can they tell from our faces, our voices, our lives?

First Communion 2008, Waynesboro VA.