The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread.
They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.
Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’
How can we know Christ is risen? Would be gathered here today, if Christ had not risen? What was the spark that lit the flame of faith, which has passed down the generations, for two millennia to ourselves? The risen Christ surely must be with us to sustain our faith, and to assure its survival through all that has happened during that time. Just as at the Vigil Mass, our candles were lit one from another and from the Easter candle, so the light and flame of faith has spread from small beginnings to a mighty illumination. How is the risen, and ascended, and absent Christ, present to us? He is with us in Word and in Sacrament; in prayer and in silent thought; in the stranger and the little one; in the still, small voice of conscience; in the daily scripture of our lives; in others who cross our paths. He is no longer present in the manner that he was to the apostles immediately after the resurrection. He presents himself to them in bodily form, not a ghost, but a scarred yet barely recognisable friend who eats with them and walks with them. Still, they eventually recognise their friend and Redeemer in his explanations of the Sacred Scripture and in the breaking of bread. This is not the same Jesus who was with them before the resurrection. He is somewhat different, yet somewhat he same and sometimes they don’t recognise him at first and sometimes they don’t believe at first. Yet this is the same Christ who first came among them, who spoke to them of the promises of the Sacred Scripture; who took leave of them, promising to be with them in the Eucharist. This is the Christ who coaxed the flame of faith within them, even when it seemed snuffed out by fear and doubt. This is the Christ who promised eternal life and salvation through forgiveness of sins; a peace the world can’t give, and a communion which will be eternal. The risen Christ lives and is with us as we gather, in the many disguises that he wears. He has promised, after all, to be with us wherever we gather in his name.