Thursday in Octave of Easter

Lectionary: 264



Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”


Americans, I am told, are a visually oriented people. We know what we know by sight, whether it’s people or pictures, logos or landmarks. I might suppose that everyone is like that until I read today’s gospel and wonder that the disciples did not recognize the Risen Lord when he appeared to them.


Apparently, they had to touch him. But then again, sometimes when families and loved ones are reunited their seeing one another is not enough. They have to touch one another with many hugs and kisses, even with close inspection of faces and hands. “Is it really you?” they cry as if a part of themselves doesn’t want to believe; as if they have been so sad and hurt by the absence they’re reluctant to believe.


If the absence has been many years perhaps they don’t immediately recognize one another. They have to readjust their memories to the signs of aging that have appeared in the meanwhile. “Is that you with the grey hair, the wrinkles and age spots, the stoop in the back?”


I remember one friar whose heart attack/stroke had so aged him I had to ask someone, “Who is that?” And when I was told I broke down in tears.


Perhaps Jesus’ disciples underwent all these emotions and more as the Lord greeted them after that amazing, terrible weekend. When he appeared they could only see a ghost. But he laughed at them and insisted, “Look at my hands and feet. Touch me and see…”


His hands and feet were undeniably disfigured by the fresh wounds of crucifixion; it could be no one else but Jesus! And yet they were “incredulous for sheer joy.” So he took some baked fish and ate it before them to prove he was alive and well. In the spirit of the moment we can imagine his laughing as he ate. Doesn’t halleluiah sound like laughter?
The Christian religion is an incarnational religion; it includes the flesh. We could not be satisfied if only the "Spirit of Jesus" were raised up. We checked the tomb and found it empty. We watched him eat; we clung to him by his tomb; we put our fingers into the nail marks and the lance wound. 

We would not be satisfied if only our souls went to heaven. How are we supposed to know one another in heaven without all the familiar eyes, noses, chins, ears and hands; without the familiar gestures, tics, and grins? Even our smells should go with us, it seems to me. 

On that day of recognition there will be much rejoicing. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.