Sybil 1999

Gospel text

Luke 24: 35-48

35 And the disciples of Emmaus began to tell what had happened on the road, and how Jesus had revealed himself to them in the breaking of bread. 36 When they told these things, Jesus himself was among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." Frightened and scared, they thought to be seeing a ghost. 38 Jesus went on, "Why be so restless, why let all these reasoning go up. 39 Look at my hands and my feet; it's me. Feel me, and check that a ghost has neither flesh nor bone as you see it with me". 40 So saying this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 As they were so incredulous and so amazed, he said to them, "Do you have anything here that I could eat?" 42 They handed him a piece of grilled fish. 43 So he took it and ate it before them. 44 Then he said to them, "When I was with you, I told you all these things, in particular that it was necessary to reach the complete understanding of what is written in the Law of Moses as well as in the book of the Prophets and Psalms". 45 Then he opened their minds to grasping the Scriptures in depth. 46 He concluded, "All of this is in the Bible, that Messiah was going to suffer and rise from the world of the dead on the third day, 47 and that thereafter it would be announced to all nations, beginning with Jerusalen, the invitation to set a new direction to one's life in his name so as to experience the liberation from one's waywardnesses. 48 You are witnesses of all this."

A birthday

Gospel commentary - Homily

Touching and sharing meal, moments for encounter

I really like Luke the Evangelist, I like his art of telling good stories and of linking very well these stories. And yet I smile this time at his illogicality and his inconsistencies in the account of the meeting of the risen Jesus with his disciples: come on! how can the two disciples of Emmaus as well as the Eleven be afraid and take Jesus for a ghost when Luke has just recounted how Jesus was "identified" at the breaking of the bread on the road to Emmaus, and the testimony of the Eleven who say: "It is true, Jesus is risen, he appeared to Peter" ? How can one testify to having met Jesus alive, and half an hour later, to take him for a ghost? But at the same time I say to myself: "Bravo, Luke, you manage to make us understand that you are not doing a newspaper report, you do not want us to imagine that, really, in detail, in the night of Easter to Monday morning, around 11 p.m., in a house south of Jerusalem, Jesus physically snuck into the group, in traditional clothes, but with such an odd appearance that he frightened everyone. I can see your story is on another level".

As a biblical scholar, I have always taught that this account was above all apologetic, ie that it was addressed to people of Greek culture for whom the resurrection of the dead posed a problem (one thinks of the failure of Paul in Athens when he talked about the resurrection and in his debates with the Corinthians): by insisting on the fact that the risen Jesus has a body with flesh and bones, and that he eats, Luke somehow wants to illustrate the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.

But in the western context of the 21st century which is mine, this account has for me a new relevance, in particular within the setting of this question: where does similar encounters with this living Jesus take place today? Certainly not in Jerusalem, I know, I lived there for a year.

If there are signs of the risen Jesus, I have personally seen them in people who have physically touched me, palpated, overwhelmed by their tender love. Saying it bothers me all the less because the Gospel contains very strong expressions: "Feel me, and check that a ghost has neither flesh nor bone as you observe in me." The beginning of the 1st epistle of John has something similar: "What our hands have palpated from the Word of life ..." I have no other place than this body to perceive the life that comes and goes. My mother-in-law passed away smoothly at home. My wife accompanied her constantly, holding her hand, stroking her face from time to time, slipping loving words at her, even if she was not sure that her mind was catching everything that was going on. When I touch or let myself be touched consciously and with all my being, I accept that life flows, I accept the resurrection of all that is dead. The newspaper reported the case of a violent child to whom the recreation supervisor said: "Give the one you just hit a caress!" And the child did not understand what she meant.

"Do you have anything here that I could eat?" asks Jesus. Is there a more fundamental, more vital, and I would add, more animal, action than that of eating? When my mother-in-law no longer accepted food, but only a little water, we knew that her death was near. Eating with others, having a meal around a table was very often for me the moment when I was vulnerable, human, true, receptive to life, open to encounter. I remember my last Christmas when I saw people around the table talking to each other with truth and simplicity, people who were hating one another a few years ago: I found myself talking with interest with my teenage boyfriend daughter, no longer seeing his pierced body and needles. In the meal well lived, I enter into relationship, I let life come in.

Where to find the risen Jesus at the start of the 21st century? One of the places is the one that Luke indicates in his story. This place is not in unattainable heights or depths. It is very close, as close as in the gesture of touching or being touched, as close as that of a meal where one enters into relationship. The Sunday liturgy leaves us two signs which evoke it, the handshake during the exchange of peace (where it is still active), the communion with bread and wine (often reduced to the manducation of a small host). Despite the somewhat ritualistic side of these signs, I would like us to remember the deep and liberating reality that they evoke.


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, January 2000