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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | Recognize the risen Lord among us

Sharing our own experiences of Jesus helps open others’ eyes to His presence

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Happy Easter — Christ is Risen!

There’s a different sense of time that pervades this week, at least in the Church’s mind. Every day for the whole week is treated as Easter Sunday. Every Gospel reading recounts an appearance of the Lord on Easter Sunday. The Alleluia refrain for every day is the same: “This is the day the Lord has made.” (Psalm 118:24)

We’ve all experienced that unusual sense of time — when time stands still. We’re given a taste of it at every Mass: The normal boundaries of time drop away, and the one sacrifice of the Cross becomes present to us again. Easter week is meant to draw us into that different sense of time, a sense of time that anticipates what heaven will be like. As Pope Benedict XVI once said: “Faith draws the future into the present … the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future.”

What are we to do with this new sense of time — how are we meant to spend it?

The Scriptures for the week give some guidance. On Monday, Peter says: “God raised Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.” On Saturday, he says: “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” Seven times during the week, we hear some version of that refrain: how someone tells what they have seen.

We do that spontaneously with other good things we experience. We’ve all been “restaurant evangelists” (you have to try this restaurant!) or “technology evangelists” (you have to get one of these gadgets!) or “program evangelists” (you have to see this new TV show!) at some time or other. Can we share our experience of the Lord just as spontaneously and joyfully? Fundamentally, that’s all evangelization is: to say what we have seen.

There’s an interesting pattern in two of the Gospel readings this week that can help us understand why that’s important. In the episode with the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), we hear: “Jesus Himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” In the episode when the apostles have gone out fishing (John 20), we hear: “Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.”

In both cases, when their eyes are eventually opened, the objective reality doesn’t change: Jesus was there before, and the same Jesus is still there. What changes is something inside: Their eyes are opened to recognize the reality of Jesus’ presence with them.

The same pattern is being repeated in a lot of people’s lives these days. Jesus is already present in their lives, but for some reason, their eyes are prevented from recognizing Him. When we share our own experience — how we have seen the Lord — it often opens the eyes of others to realize that they, too, have seen Him. Our witness gives them the freedom and the insight to claim that experience.

The closing Gospel for the week provides a summary and a commission. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, and she went and told others. Jesus appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and they went and told others. Finally, Jesus appears to the apostles, and gives them a commission: “Go and tell others.”

So, how have you seen the Lord?

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