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Sunday Homily, 14 April 2024 - Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Everything the Gospel writers said about Easter is to tell us that the resurrection of Jesus is bodily.  It really happened: Christ’s dead, lifeless body lay in the tomb, and then it didn’t.  He was wrapped tight in burial cloths, until suddenly it wasn’t.  There was a huge stone set in front of the tomb to block the way in and out, then there wasn’t.  Something cannot both be and not-be at the same time: so, either the Lord’s body is in the earth or it’s not, and if it’s not, then the Lord is risen from the dead.  All that we’ve heard in our Gospel readings these last three weeks has been reinforcing that point: the Lord is truly risen from the dead, in his own body.  He took his own human body into the resurrection, and so he is the resurrection and the life for us.

Today we have the other half of the Emmaus episode.  We recall that two disciples walking in the countryside are joined by the Lord in disguise.  He’s recognised when he broke bread, having told them about himself in the Old Testament.  Here in this second half of the episode, the Lord shows that that his resurrection is bodily in four ways.  That is, he stacks up the pieces of evidence one on top of the other so that we understand what has happened.

The first piece of evidence for the bodily resurrection is that the Lord was seen alive.  We know very well that the risen Lord is invisible until he shows himself.  We expect to see him face to face at the end of time.  But he showed himself to the disciples.  They laid eyes on him and recognised him.  He had the same facial features as before his death.  He took the same shape and dimensions.  Overall, it is him.  The only difference on his body is that it bears the wounds of the nails: they saw those too.

The Lord was also touched.  The risen Lord held out his hands and arms for the disciples to connect bodily with them.  He was patted on the back.  He was hugged by men he called brothers.  He rolled up his sleeves to show the wounds on his hands. Some may have run their fingers over the back of his hands to feel the depression of the wounds.  I wonder what the inside of the wounds looked like.

The Lord then ate.  The risen Lord has no need of sustenance as such.  He doesn’t digest food anymore.  He doesn’t need vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and fibre, not in the least.  Yet, he put fish into his mouth, chewed it with his teeth, and swallowed it.  It’s amazing that his body works so well having been dead once.  Also, one of the ancient writers of the Church thought that fish was the most blessed of all fish, because it was taken into the Lord’s risen body without being digested.  The Lord’s resurrection was truly bodily.

Lastly and most importantly for us (because we receive it too), the Lord was heard.  The Lord spoke with his disciples; his first word was, “Peace.”  He says the same to us as well: Peace.  He and they interacted; they had conversations.  Those conversations weren’t small talk; they discussed how Christ is there to be read in the Old Testament.  One thing which is common to the two halves of this Emmaus episode is the attention to the Hebrew Scriptures: he spoke about them.

Both before and after the disciples recognised the Lord, he explained the Hebrew Scriptures to them: he pointed out how they say that the Christ had to die and rise again.  We don’t usually read the Old Testament in that way, but we must.  It’s not appropriation: the Lord and his disciples were Jewish; they gave their Scriptures to us for us to understand who the Lord is.  When someone is in love, everything reminds them of the one they love; it’s all the truer therefore with Christ.  Everything in the Hebrew Bible reminds us of him.

Today’s Psalm is a case in point.  We heard: “From anguish you released me.”  This is the prayer of Christ to his Father after the resurrection.  The Father freed his Son from the terror of death.  We also heard: “The Lord hears me whenever I call him.”  This is the risen Lord speaking to us about his Father.  The Lord testifies to us that the Father loves him, and that we can go to the Father through him for our own needs.

Now we go to the altar, from which we receive the Lord’s risen body.  He is not in the tomb; he isn’t wrapped up and sealed in.  The Lord is truly risen from the dead, body and soul.  He is with us always.  Amen.  Alleluia!

Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Parish Priest

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