by Fr. Tommy Lane
If you were living in Palestine at the time of Jesus and met Jesus what sort of person would you expect him to be? What would he be like to talk to? Did he have a good sense of humor? When Jesus appeared on Easter Sunday evening in Jerusalem to the group of disciples it was a gentle encounter as we heard in the Gospel (Luke 24:35-48). The disciples were frightened after his death but he calmed them, “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.” (Luke 24:39) Jesus risen from the dead was still someone you could talk to. He wasn’t someone with airs and graces. He was hungry and accepted what food they had, grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes (Luke 24:42-43). It was so casual, so normal, so informal and so ordinary despite being the first encounter of the risen Jesus with his disciples!
When I teach Scripture courses people have told me it helped them to pray when I showed all the places in the Gospels where we see these human touches of the divine Jesus. So to help you draw closer to Jesus in prayer I would like to do the same for you today. If we knew the Lord in person when he was ministering in Palestine we would see how easygoing a person he was, that he had no airs or graces, and that he was easy to talk to. As we read the Gospels we see that he loved other people; love in the sense of unselfish Godlike love. He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11:5). Several times in John’s Gospel we are told that one of the disciples was a special friend to Jesus, the beloved disciple (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20). This is what Jesus said of the sinner woman in Luke 7:44-45 to the Pharisee who invited him to his house, “I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in.” She reminds us of the hymn which begins, “Reach out and touch the Lord...” What confidence she had in approaching Jesus. How easy it was to approach Jesus. No wonder that they said to Jesus in Mark 12:14 “we know that you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone, because human rank means nothing to you…” Class distinctions mean nothing to Jesus. They are figments of our imagination, results of pride and sinfulness, but in the eyes of Jesus class distinctions mean nothing.
When we suffer great pain we cry. Jesus too cried when he hurt. When his cousin and friend Lazarus died we read in John 11:35-36 that Jesus wept. Jesus cried before entering Jerusalem for the last time before his passion because he knew they would not accept him as the Messiah and that the city would be destroyed (Luke 19:41-44).
Jesus certainly knew how to enjoy himself. He attended several dinners: the one given him by Matthew/Levi after he called him (Matt 9:9-10; Mark 2:13-15; Luke 5:27-29); at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19:7); and Pharisees invited him to dinner (Luke 7:36; 11:37; 14:1); and there was dinner at Lazarus’ house (John 12:2). At Cana (John 2) Jesus changed between 120 and 180 gallons of water into wine so that the wedding guests could continue to enjoy themselves, and it was wine of the best vintage. (At that time the wedding celebration lasted a week). Jesus wanted people to enjoy community celebrations because they were a foretaste of the banquet of heaven. Obviously Jesus enjoyed such occasions himself because of the description of him,
a glutton and a drunkard,
When there is injustice we become angry. Jesus also became angry when he saw injustice. He drove the money-changers out of the temple (Matt 21:12-13). Anger is an emotion with which we are uncomfortable because we sometimes handle it badly. Anger, like every emotion, is neutral, neither good nor bad. What makes it good or bad is what we do with the emotion. We can sometimes take our frustration with one person out on a different person but when Jesus vented his anger, he never directed it at the wrong person, always at the appropriate person. Jesus never did anything violent against any person. Anger is good when it arises from a suitable cause, when it is properly directed and correctly expressed. Anger has to be expressed in some way and let go, otherwise it eats into the person. Jesus didn’t hold onto anger; he expressed it and let it go. That was a healthy way to live.
Like all of us, Jesus was afraid when faced with something dreadful. We all know about Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane when he asked his Father to let the chalice of his passion pass him by. But in John 12:27 Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled.” Imagine Jesus saying his soul is troubled! Very human and ordinary, don’t you think? How did Jesus cope when he was troubled? He prayed and then he was uplifted once again so that in the following verse we hear Jesus pray, “Father, glorify your name.” If our prayer is working, if we are praying properly, it should also uplift us as it uplifted Jesus.
We suffer many temptations and Jesus also was tempted on many occasions not only in the desert for 40 days though he did not sin. During the Last Supper, in Luke’s account, Jesus says, “You are the men who have stood by me faithfully in my trials” (Luke 22,28). Through Peter, Satan tempted Jesus, when Peter said he must not suffer and die in Jerusalem (Matt 16:21-23; Mark 8:31-33). Jesus’ reply was, “Get behind me Satan.” Heb 4:15 says that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are though he did not sin. A document of Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes §22, says Jesus
“laboured with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted with a human will, and loved with a human heart. Born of Mary the Virgin he truly became one of us and, sin apart, was like us in every way.”
When I teach Scripture courses people told me it helped them to pray when I showed all the places in the Gospels where we see these human touches of the divine Jesus. That brings me back to our Gospel today and the gentle meeting between Jesus and his disciples. The disciples were frightened after Jesus’ death but he calmed them, “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.” (Luke 24:39) A pretty normal person, don’t you think, someone you could talk to? He was hungry and accepted what food they had, grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes (Luke 24:42-43). Jesus is waiting for you. You can tell him everything. You do not have to hide anything. Class distinctions mean nothing to Jesus. Jesus is waiting for you to approach him. “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.” (Luke 24:39)
More homilies for the Third Sunday of Easter Year B
Related Homilies: on God’s forgiveness “Neither do I condemn you. Go and do not sin again”
Second Reading: our advocate with Father Jesus pleads for us
stories about God’s forgiveness
stories about confession of sin