BEFORE THE CROSS | Recognizing the clues of Jesus’ presence in our lives

After His resurrection, Jesus' followers didn't recognize Him immediately, but learned to look for clues

Christ is Risen!

Every day this week the Gospels tell us about one of the appearances of the risen Jesus to His disciples.

A common feature in these accounts — and a curious one — is that Jesus’ followers didn’t always recognize Him.

So it was with Mary Magdalene when she went to the tomb: “She turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.”

So it was with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus: “Jesus Himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.”

So it was with Peter and the crew that joined him to go fishing: In the morning, after fishing all night without success, “Jesus was standing there on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.”

In each case something happened to open their eyes. The pattern is instructive for us because it mirrors our experience: Jesus is always present to us, although we don’t always recognize His presence. These accounts encourage us to be quicker to recognize Him, and they give us some clues about how to do so.

For example, Jesus calls Mary by name. He speaks a special word to her heart, and that’s when she recognizes Him. So it is when we read Scripture. Sometimes the words go in one ear and out the other. When that happens we’re like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus: Jesus is talking to us, but we don’t recognize Him. Sometimes, however, a word draws our attention — it gives us peace and rest, or it energizes our intellect and imagination. Then our eyes are opened and we know: the Word — Jesus — is speaking a special word to us, calling us by name. Then we become like the disciples who said: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way?” I bet they were quicker to recognize this clue of His presence the next time. And I wonder: Can we be quicker, too?

The same is true of our everyday experiences. Sometimes our interactions with people come and go, and we forget about them. We know, intellectually, that Jesus is present in the people we encounter. But somehow we don’t really recognize Him. Sometimes, though, we’re on the receiving end of something beautiful. We can say: “I had an interaction that really stayed with me. I was deeply consoled by what this person said or did.” And sometimes we’re on the giving end — we’re able to lift someone up, and the good fruit of the interaction continues to console and energize us throughout the day. Then we’re like the disciple whose eyes were opened by the miraculous catch of fish, and we can say: “It is the Lord!”

The risen Jesus comes into our lives. Like the disciples in these accounts, we don’t always recognize Him. But the Gospels teach us some of the clues that opened the disciples’ eyes. Maybe we can learn their lesson and, this year, recognize Him more quickly when He appears to us.

BEFORE THE CROSS Recognizing the clues of Jesus presence in our lives 2

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