Several years ago, my wife and I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the young women on the trip was a new Catholic; she had just joined the Church at the Easter Vigil.
I was curious and at one point asked her: “What was it that made you want to be Catholic?”
What she said surprised me.
“It was my boss,” she said. “I saw how he treated his family, his friends, those of us who worked for him. He’s the kindest, most giving person I know. There is a light in him that never goes out.”
That, she explained, is what did it. She summed it up:
“I wanted what he had.”
I’ve never forgotten that story. It challenges me every day.
Would anyone say that about me? I know my light sputters and flickers and sometimes it can be hard to see. But would anyone see that and see Christ? Would anyone say about me, “I want what he has?”
Would anyone say that about any of us?
Today’s Gospel begins with the simple phrase: “At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples…”
Fundamentally, this is a story of revelation. Of realization. Of discovery. We read these accounts of the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection and we are amazed and moved. They fill us with wonder.
But we may forget:
Jesus hasn’t finished revealing himself to a waiting world.
He didn’t just appear to the women outside the tomb, or the apostles in the Upper Room, or the people on the way to Emmaus or the fishermen by the seashore.
He reveals himself today.
And not just through the scripture we hear or the Eucharist we are about to receive.
He does it through us. All of us. In every walk of life.
In our own day, Jesus reveals himself through religious sisters caring for lepers in Calcutta.
He reveals himself through volunteers at the Catholic Worker, feeding the helpless or the hopeless with bread and with the Word of God.
He reveals himself through a parent welcoming a new child into the world. Through a woman praying a rosary in an empty church. Through a priest getting up from his dinner table to hear a confession of a dying man in hospice.
He reveals himself through a boss who treats his workers with dignity and compassion and something resembling love.
Wherever the Gospel is lived, wherever love is proclaimed, wherever life is affirmed and mercy is offered, Jesus is revealed.
The fact is: part of our baptismal call is to live in such a way that we make Christ present to others, through us. When we are baptized, the priest or deacon hands over a flickering candle, the light of Christ, and asks us to keep it burning.
How well are we doing that?
How sure is the flame of faith?
How bright is the light?
We are challenged to do more than just go through the motions — being a Catholic Christian means so much more than just coming to church, whispering a prayer, punching our ticket until next Sunday.We have been created to be so much more!
St. Teresa of Avila famously said:
“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.”
In every way imaginable, my friends, we are the Body of Christ.
What a privilege!
And what a responsibility.
Last week, we heard once again the story of Christ showing his wounds to a doubting Thomas.
Well, as the Body of Christ, as his hands and feet, we are also wounded, and broken, and scarred.
But we are also blessed. We know grace. We know hope. We know, as the hymn puts it, that “our Redeemer liveth.”
And during this Easter season and beyond, our great charge is to witness that to the world. We want others to say, as the woman I met on our trip put it, “I want that.”
We need to live in a way that shows the flame of faith still burning strong in our hearts.
We need to live in a way that proclaims the “Alleluia” of Easter, not just during these 50 days, but long after — to remind the world that Easter goes on in each of us.
We need to live in a way that sheds light on those in darkness, that gives joy to those in sorrow, that gives hope to those in despair.
The great cardinal, Blessed John Henry Newman, summed it up beautifully in a prayer that I often read when I’m leading retreats.
Let us make this prayer ours — so that Jesus might be revealed to the world today just as powerfully and vividly as he was 2,000 years ago at the Sea of Tiberius.
Help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, O Jesus will be all from You; none of it will be mine; it will be you, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.