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3rd Sunday of Easter (Ages 6-9): Heaven and Earth Meet


We know that Easter is not just one day, but a whole season—seven Sundays long! We have a chance to listen to different accounts of the Resurrection. Last week we heard what St. John writes about Jesus appearing to the disciples. He remembers the disciples hiding for fear of getting arrested, and Jesus comes and stands among them bringing his peace. This week we hear from St. Luke. He remembers things a little differently. The differences help us to know something more.

At the beginning of the Gospel reading, two disciples tell the others that they just saw Jesus alive. We wonder what the other disciples think about this.

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.

In St Luke's account, the disciples get scared, but they are not frightened that someone will arrest them. They get scared after Jesus appears. We wonder why this is so. Actually, St. Luke says that they get startled and terrified. We can understand why they might get startled. Do they expect Jesus to appear? In the middle of a discussion about Jesus, suddenly he stands right there!?! Of course they get startled! We jump when something unexpected happens. We get startled.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

But why should the disciples get scared? Not just scared, but terrified! They know Jesus, they love him—why should they get terrified? St. Luke tells us that they think he is a ghost. A ghost is a frightening idea. People imagine ghosts as the image of someone who has died, someone who is not happy about dying.

Perhaps Jesus is angry about dying.

Perhaps Jesus is angry that the sins of so many people cause him to die on the cross.

Perhaps Jesus is angry that the disciples ran away, that they said they did not know him, that they did not try to help. Who knows what an angry ghost might do?

But Jesus is not a ghost. He says,

“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.

Jesus lets them touch him. They can feel that he is real, not a frightening image. Now they see that he is not a ghost, but it is really hard to understand this. It is so new for them to think that death is not the end, that there is life after death.

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.

When he eats, they know. They have eaten many meals with Jesus; they know how he eats. Perhaps he has a way of smacking his lips when something tastes good. Perhaps he always gets a little bit of the food caught in his beard. They recognize him. This is not a ghost. He is alive for real.

He is alive and yet more fully alive than anything they have known before. Jesus is human like them, and yet he is something more. He is part of the earth, and yet also, he belongs to heaven. In Jesus, heaven and earth meet. This is Parousia. He is a Parousia person.

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.

This is not the first time that they hear these things, but it is the first time that they understand. If they had understood before, they would have expected Jesus. They would have expected him to rise to new life—not angry because he died, but full of forgiveness and calling people to repent of their sins—calling them to become more fully alive like him.

It is good to know that Jesus is fully alive.

It is good to know that in him, heaven and earth unite.

It gives us hope—for us, for our loved ones, for the world.

It gives us the confidence to pray:

Our Father who are in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

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