Bartolomeo Suardi (Bramantino)
(1456 - 1530)
35 “Then they told what had happened on the road,
and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’. 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 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’. 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 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’. 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 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, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things’”.
The whole of Chapter 24 of the Gospel of Luke speaks of the experience of different encounters of the Disciples with the Risen Lord.
We should not forget that these accounts do not pretend to provide an exact description of what a body resuscitated from the dead actually looks like. They are faith accounts that try to show that the Resurrection of Jesus had indeed taken place.
One year ago, on the Third Sunday of Easter, we meditated on how two of the Disciples, disheartened for what had happened in Jerusalem during the Passover, decided to return to Emmaus. We saw that Jesus joined them on the journey. As He walked with them, He opened their minds to understand the meaning of those events, in the light of the Scriptures. Eventually, the Disciples recognized the Lord at the breaking of bread.
This year, we read and mediate on what happened after breaking the bread: The two Disciples had invited Jesus to remain with them because ‘the day was over’: it was late in the evening. However, after the meal, Jesus disappeared from their sight and they were no longer afraid of the dark. They immediately returned to Jerusalem, and there they met the Disciples who were still hiding behind locked doors.
The State of the Disciples
Cleophas and his friend made their way back to Jerusalem and while they were talking to the Disciples about what had happened to them, Jesus appeared to the whole group.
It would not be very difficult for us to identify with the feelings of sadness and fear of the Disciples. Their state of mind is described on two occasions: first by the narrator of the Gospel saying that they were “startled and terrified”; and then by the Risen Christ Himself who said that they were “frightened” and with “doubts” in their hearts.
This emphasis on the fear of the Disciples should not go unnoticed, because a few moments later, the Disciples will experience a radical change of heart, which is difficult to understand by human reasoning.
Jesus understands their situation. Even if they would like to pretend otherwise, the Disciples could not hide just how terrified they were. Jesus comes to calm their fears by giving them clear proof that He is the very same person who gave them solace before his death.
A Ghost, the Suffering Messiah and the Risen Christ
There, in front of their very eyes stood Jesus. Although they recognized Him they thought He was a ghost. Therefore the Master offered them his body to see and to touch. Jesus himself took the initiative to show them the distinctive signs of His Passion: His pierced hands and side!
These were the marks of his suffering on the Cross, the consequence of their betrayal and denial. However, this was not an occasion to accuse or to condemn them. By showing them His hands and the side, Jesus confirms what He had told them so many times before by word of mouth and with many examples: His death on the Cross was necessary for Him to rise victorious from the dead.
The fact that Jesus showed them his hands and feet on two occasions underlines that He, the Master, was indeed the Suffering Messiah and the Risen Christ.
An expected joy?
When the Disciples saw the signs of the crucifixion that they were over-joyed, and yet despite such great joy, they were still afflicted by doubt and disbelief. How can we understand this?
The Evangelist is trying to explain the radical transformation in the minds and hearts of the Disciples: from feeling fear and anxiety, in a state of fright and disbelief, to an overwhelming feeling of joy. The Evangelist cannot express this in any other way but by saying that ‘they could not believe it’. It was a completely unexpected turn of events.
The Jewish Authorities accused the Disciples of having stolen the body of Jesus and claiming that he had risen from the dead. On the contrary, the Evangelist is telling us that the Disciples were so taken aback by the resurrection of Jesus, that they were the very first ones to be surprised by it. They simply did not have the psychological or emotional strength steal the body from the tomb and then claim that Jesus had risen from the dead.
A meal with Jesus
The Gospel of Luke will provide yet further evidence of the Risen Body of Christ by Jesus sharing a meal with the Disciples.
This is a clear reference to the Eucharist:
1. Jesus proclaimed the Scriptures; then
2. He explained them and helped the Disciples understand their meaning in relation to his Passion, Death and Resurrection;
3. The Eucharist includes forgiveness and repentance. At the Last Supper Jesus offered forgiveness to Peter in anticipation of his denial, and to Judas by sharing with him a piece of his own bread;
4. The breaking of the bread (here in the form of eating some fish); and finally,
5. The sending out of the believers to proclaim the Good News to the whole world.
The Sending Out
The Evangelist therefore describes this meal as he did the Eucharist at the Last Supper by including: the proclamation of the Scriptures, the explanation of the Scriptures, the forgiveness of sins, the breaking of bread and the sending out of believers.
Like the other elements listed, the ‘sending out’ is an integral part of the Eucharist from its very institution on Maundy Thursday. We can therefore say without hesitation that the celebration of the Eucharist is incomplete if there is no ‘sending out’ of believers.
“Ite, Misa est” is the Easter proclamation of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ to all nations.
While Jesus preached only to the People of Israel, his Death and Resurrection broke down the walls that divided Jews and Gentiles. The Disciples understood that the command they received was to preach to the Good News to all the earth. This continues to be the task of all those who want to fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist.
"Almighty God and Father, Jesus died for us on the Cross
and You raised Him from the dead.
We have not seen the marks of the nails in His hands
nor touched the wound in His side,
but we believe that He is alive and present among us.
Open our hearts to His Word
and let us touch Him in the Bread of the Eucharist,
that He may raise us above our sins
and change us into new people.
May we thus bear witness to Your risen Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord".
From Pope Francis:
“Jesus realizes that the Apostles are unsettled in seeing him,
that they are bewildered because the reality of the Resurrection
is inconceivable to them. They believe they are seeing a spirit;
but the Risen Jesus is not a spirit; he is a man with body and soul.
Jesus’ insistence on the reality of his Resurrection illuminates
the Christian perspective of the body: the body is not an obstacle
nor a prison of the soul. It can become an occasion or instrument
of sin, but sin is not provoked by the body, but rather by our moral weakness. The body is a wondrous gift from God, intended,
in union with the soul, to fully express the image and likeness
of Him. Therefore, we are called to have great respect and care
for our body and for that of others”.
Jesus comes to the assistance of the disbelieving Disciples. His attitude mirrors that of the Father of the ‘Prodigal Son’ who did not condemn but restored the son to his true and original dignity. God takes care of our fears and anxieties: “It is I, do not be afraid”; “Why are you so agitated?”
The climax of the Sacrament of the Eucharist is the ‘sending out’ to proclaim Christ to those outside the walls of the Church. The Eucharist equips us with the necessary strength to carry out this great commission, a duty essential to our very Christian identity which we received at Baptism and renew at the Eucharist.
 John 12:24: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”.  Acts 10: 42: “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead”.