Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
During the Octave of Easter we hear reports of the resurrection the Risen Christ appears to his friends one after another. His joy and happiness is infectious, replacing their initial fear with peace, and as we hear in Acts, drawing them together into a community, empowering them to witness through healing and preaching. St. Ignatius is always directing our attention toward Jesus. At the beginning of the fourth week of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius has us contemplate these “apparitions.” “Upon awakening,” he instructs, “think of the contemplation [you] are about to make, and endeavor to feel joyful and happy over the great joy and happiness of Christ our Lord.” When contemplating the appearance in today’s Gospel, I can get caught up with the disciples terror of encountering a beloved friend thought dead. Jesus, however, says “Peace be with you,” relax, it’s me, isn’t this great! In this joy-filled spirit, He reminds us to be witnesses, pointing out signs of life and love even in dark places and troubled times.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was just such a witness. April 4, 1968, his mission came to an abrupt end. Even when calling fellow citizens to account, to repentance for sinful and death-dealing racism, Dr. King’s motivation was not retribution or punishment, but a compelling vision of love and unity, justice and peace, for the whole human family. Within days of Dr. King’s assassination Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, including the Fair Housing Act, prohibiting housing discrimination based on race, religion, or national origin. Forty-five years later we live in the tension of “already and not yet.” Already many barriers between people and communities have fallen, yet so many more need to come down.
In the difficulties and trials of your own circumstances, how might you share Christ’s joy and happiness, witnessing to His resurrection?
We thank you for your church, founded upon your Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon you. Help us to realize that humanity was created to shine like the stars and live on through all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace. Help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God’s children—Black, White, Red, Brown and Yellow—will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the reign of our Lord and of our God, we pray.
—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., excerpted from Thou, Dear God: Prayers That Open Hearts and Spirits (edited by Lewis V. Baldwin, Beacon Press, 2012)