Third Sunday of Easter (April 15, 2018)

It’s hard for us to imagine what it must have been like to be in the room where the disciples had gathered and were now listening to the two who had just returned from Emmaus and were telling them about their experience of the risen Jesus. All of them had to have been excited and full of questions.

Then Jesus came and stood in their midst and spoke to them very gently: “Peace be with you.” It’s obvious that Jesus understood their amazement and confusion. He immediately wants to set their minds at ease: “See my hands and feet; it is I. Touch me; I’m not a ghost.” “Have you anything to eat?” And he eats the piece of fish they gave him. We’re told the disciples were incredulous with joy.

Then Jesus takes the time to explain to them all the Scriptures - from Moses and the prophets and psalms - that referred to him. All of this was to prepare them for their mission as witnesses to all these things.

Jesus wants to have a similar encounter with each of us in prayer. He wants us to know him as our crucified and risen Lord. He wants us to experience him as our Advocate with the Father – the One who forgives our sins and reconciles us with the Father. He wants to open our minds and hearts to the depths of God’s word in the Scriptures – words which invite us into the fullness of the mystery of God’s great love and mercy – words which are meant to transform us into his brothers and sisters.

Sometimes we find ourselves tempted to think that there must be one definitive experience of Jesus that will change us forever – an experience like the one in today’s Gospel. We search the books of spiritual writers, trying to find that “best” way to make this happen. And we often find ourselves frustrated – and feeling very imperfect: “I must be doing something wrong.”

Today’s Gospel is instructive. Jesus is the one who chooses the time and way he will reveal himself. The disciples were just there in the room; they didn’t have to do anything to prepare for Jesus’ coming among them. They were just thinking about him and their minds were filled with questions. Then Jesus is there, telling them: “Peace be with you.”

Our expectations for some definitive experience of Jesus may be blinding us to the experience that Jesus wants for us. He knows our desires – and our limitations. He may not want to overwhelm us at a particular moment. He does want us to be there in prayer with an open heart. He will fill us with his love in the way he knows we need it.

May our eagerness for an experience of Jesus in prayer always be tempered with confidence and trust in his loving care for us.