True God and True Man
April 8, 2021 (readings)
- Thursday in the Octave of Easter
- Carey Boyzuck
The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way, and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. 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 and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, open my mind to understand your word. Teach me and help me to follow you in all things, even your suffering.
Surprise!: Today’s Gospel passage continues right after our Gospel passage from yesterday. The disciples that met Christ on the road to Emmaus and recognized him in the breaking of the bread immediately went back to Jerusalem to share their story with the rest of the disciples. They had turned away from the flock, but Jesus, the Good Shepherd, went after them to bring them into the fold. After walking the seven miles back to Jerusalem, imagine their surprise when Christ reappeared to them and the other disciples! Jesus did many surprising things during his ministry and after his Resurrection. Terrified, the Apostles were wondering if he were a ghost, when Jesus asked for something to eat. That is probably not what they expected to happen. What a human thing to do: to ask for mere food. The disciples were also surprised when the Risen Christ cooked fish for them on the beach at daybreak, beckoning them to “come and have breakfast” (John 21:12). How has Jesus surprised you in the workings of your own life?
Our Human Senses: Jesus opened the minds of the Apostles to understand the Scriptures. We might wonder why he waited until after he had died and risen to help them fully understand. This is God’s pedagogy, the way he teaches us. We are human beings, and Jesus knows that sometimes we must experience things gradually through our human senses in order to understand them. He directs them to look at his hands and feet—the wounds of the crucifixion. The Apostles had to hear him speak “Peace,” touch him, see his wounds, and watch him eat before they could grasp the reality of his death and Resurrection. They had to personally encounter Christ’s suffering and humanity before they could fully grasp his divinity. The Catechism teaches: “...everything in Christ's human nature is to be attributed to his divine person as its proper subject, not only his miracles but also his sufferings and even his death: ‘He who was crucified in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, is true God, Lord of glory, and one of the Holy Trinity’” (CCC 468). This encounter happened at the very end of Luke’s Gospel. In fact, immediately after this, Jesus led the disciples to Bethany where he ascended to the Father. Only then did the Apostles truly rejoice. They finally “got it.” After his Ascension, they “did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24:52-53).
The Mystery of Suffering: The disciples did not understand that Christ had to suffer before he would rise. In truth, suffering is a mystery, both Christ’s and our own. Jesus knew that by taking on our humanity he would also take on the human condition of suffering. He entered into suffering and death to defeat it. He, the “light of life” (John 8:12), entered into the darkness of death and broke it apart from the inside out. Christ’s suffering was the remedy for our sin, bringing us salvation and victory. We who are his disciples follow Jesus all the way to the cross of his self-giving love. St. Peter speaks to our call to suffer with Christ: “For to this [patient suffering] you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps” (1 Peter 2:21). Suffering comes to each of us; how we bear it and for whom we bear it makes all the difference. When we suffer, we can offer our pain and tears up to Our Lord and unite them with his sacrifice on the cross. Being a Christian in today’s world means that we will likely suffer in his name. Evangelical author and professor Trevin Wax wrote this regarding Christians suffering: “When we say we want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we must remember what happened to the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, I am comforted by your humanity. You are true God and true man. You entered into my humanity to raise it up to share in your divinity. You suffered in my place. There is nothing I could do, no praise or sacrifice I could offer, that would ever express adequately my gratitude for this gift.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will offer any suffering I encounter in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the salvation of the world.
For Further Reflection: Read this section in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Christ’s humanity and divinity. Part III is “True God and True Man” and Part IV is “How is the Son of God Man?”
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