Third Sunday of Easter
When I was learning how to drive, my instructor insisted that before changing lanes or before entering the traffic, it was not enough to look at the side mirrors but also to turn my head to the back of my shoulder so that I could cover my “blind spot”. In our eyes, we all have a blind spot because there’s a place in our retina that lacks any receptors and any image that falls in this spot, we can’t see.
Apparently, the disciples had several blind spots in terms of issues about Jesus that they hadn’t understood. And yet Jesus was very patient in guiding them so that what they learnt, they would pass on to their followers, the future Christians.
First, the very obvious … Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. If you notice, Jesus appears to his disciples when they are gathered as a community. He wants to make sure that he is seen by every one of his close followers. And every time Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, his disciples were initially terrified, that’s why he has to greet them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus wanted to reassure his disciples that there’s no need to be afraid because it is He and not some ghostly projection. And to further supplement Jesus’ assertion, he even got a piece of baked fish and ate it in front of them to prove he was flesh and bones.
It is quite interesting to note that even if Jesus has already told them about his resurrection after his passion and death, not only once but three times, it seems that this message has fallen on a blind spot with his disciples. For his disciples and maybe for all of us after seeing how Jesus got arrested, tortured and his body broken from the crucifixion and died and buried, how could this same Jesus could appear again to his disciples alive and kicking? Perhaps his disciples got so blinded by Jesus’ suffering and death that they couldn’t believe that resurrection would be possible and yet Jesus is there in front of them.
Second, the deeper issue of the role of the Messiah. The disciples followed Jesus thinking that he was the one sent by God to kick out the oppressive Roman empire and restore the kingship of David in Israel. And yet, even if Jesus has insisted that his coming to this world is not to restore a worldly kingdom but instead to restore our relationship with God by breaking the bonds of sin and death, this message has fallen again on a blind spot of the disciples.
Again, Jesus after his resurrection has to explain to his disciples the meaning of scripture to be able to understand that what Jesus offers is not another temporary relief but an infinite solution to the root of all evil not only of the Roman Empire but of the world and that is sin. By wiping away the sin of the world, our relationship to God is now restored and this time because of animal sacrifices but the sacrifice of the innocent Lamb of God.
A few years ago, I went to Thailand to give a retreat to the SVD confreres assigned there. After the retreat we went to a Buddhist-Hindu park in Nong Kai, in the northern part of Thailand near the border to Laos. I was very impressed with the park with different statues of the Buddha and various Hindu gods. However, there was one statue that I found quite scary. The statue of a giant cobra with seven heads, all with fearsome teeth and long tongues and at the middle a sitting Buddha who looks so serene. For me, because I had no idea of the context since I still lack knowledge about Buddhism, I found the statue quite frightening.
I guess the same is true whenever a person who has no idea about Christianity comes into one of our churches and sees a big image of a dead Jesus crucified. They must be quite frightened and must be asking why are we having an image like that at our churches.
Well … we have to understand and believe that it is through the suffering and death of Jesus the victory of death has been achieved. When Jesus said the words “It is finished.” Those words are not words of defeat but words of victory. And his resurrection is the final act to confirm that sin has been defeated. So for us an image of the crucified Christ is not an image of failure and defeat but it is an image of triumph and victory.
As we recall today the apparition of Jesus to his disciples. Let us be reminded that he continues to appear to us to this very day. Whenever the sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated, we see Jesus in the form of his body and blood. And we continue to celebrate Easter because what we worship is not a dead Messiah but a truly alive Jesus Christ as he has proven to his disciples on that first Easter Sunday. So let us fix our blind spots by turning our heads occasionally by reading scripture.