Are you Jesus?

UGNAYAN - Joe T. Tale - The Philippine Star

There are three post-resurrection verses that somehow break the smooth tempo in reading the Easter accounts.

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene

Mary stood crying outside the tomb. While she was still crying, she bent over and looked in the tomb and saw two angels there dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and the other at the feet. “Woman, why are you crying?” they asked her. She answered, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus. “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?” She thought he was the gardener, so she said to him, “If you took him away, sir, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him” (John 20:11-15).

The walk to Emmaus

On that same day, two of Jesus’ followers were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking to each other about all the things that had happened. As they talked and discussed, Jesus himself drew near and walked along with them; they saw him, but somehow did not recognize him (Luke 24:13-16).

Jesus appears to seven disciples

As the sun was rising, Jesus stood at the water’s edge, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus (John 21:4).

What is it in these verses that make me pause and reflect, and in a way, disturb me?

What is somewhat disturbing to me is that all the verses indicate that the closest friends and followers of Jesus momentarily did not recognize Him after He had resurrected. Mary Magdalene thought he was a gardener. The seven disciples, including Peter and John, must have thought he was just another fisherman. The followers of Jesus on the way to Emmaus thought he was just a fellow traveler on the road. And to think they were among the few who were privileged to be with Jesus up close and personal!

Of course, it is possible that they did not immediately recognize Him because they did not expect to see Him at all after He had died; or, as in the case of the seven disciples, maybe He was too far away on the shore; but what about Mary Magdalene and the travelers to Emmaus who saw Him close enough? The theological explanation is that Jesus after the resurrection was already in His glorified body, and therefore not easily recognizable.

Yes, but at the same time, the verses also express what often happens to us, how we sometimes do not recognize Jesus at times, even when He comes into our midst.

We don’t have to look far. The very poor in our country are all around us — the homeless who continue, painfully, to eke out an existence in garbage dumps and under bridges, the poor and sick, especially in remote areas who, to get medical attention, have to be carried and transported on foot over rugged terrain to the nearest clinic hours away. More recently, we have Kristel Tejada, who committed suicide out of hopelessness due to her family’s inability to raise the needed tuition fee for her medical school studies.

Indeed, we are exhorted by the Gospels to recognize Jesus among the poor and needy, to give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, homes to the homeless, care to the sick, and visits to those in prison (Matthew 25: 35-40). Jesus tells us that as we do these to the least of our brethren, we do it unto Him. Of course, we are inspired by the many who take to heart this admonition of Jesus, especially those who do so silently, without fanfare, going about it in their own humble way. I am familiar, for example, with members of Singles for Christ, who, in partnership with the Ateneo Center for Educational Development and many generous groups, sacrifice their Saturday mornings to tutor the slow learners among the public school children in reading and comprehension. This is a simple gesture but which will help the poor children break out of the poverty cycle when they grow up. Our new Pope Francis has sounded the clarion call for us to live simply and to love the poor. May we heed the call, such that the entire church, clergy and lay alike, follow his example, live out our faith in the concrete and be a church of the poor. 

There is so much despair in the world because of man’s inhumanity to man. But precisely because of Jesus’ resurrection, there is hope to the hopeless and comfort to those who suffer. Jesus’ rising from the dead shows us that there is more to life than what we currently see, a future more beautiful than the present, because notwithstanding the odds, nothing is impossible with God!

We are called to be an Easter people, not immune to pain and suffering, but hopeful and joyful because we have a Lord who has shown us the way. If perchance we sometimes get frustrated and even feel helpless, let us be strengthened with the truth that our Redeemer lives! We might not recognize Him immediately, but we actually encounter Him among the people we interact with each day.

Mary Magdalene, the fishermen disciples, the travelers to Emmaus - they all eventually recognized Jesus. Let us experience with them the special moments when they recognized the Lord.

• Mary Magdalene, when Jesus called her by name. “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned toward him and said in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni’ (This means ‘Teacher’)” (John 20:16).

• The fishermen disciples, when they caught plenty of fish in obedience to his instructions, prompting John to say to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7)

•The travelers to Emmaus, when Jesus broke bread with them — “He sat down to eat with them, took the bread, and said the blessing; then he broke the bread and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight” (Luke 24:30-31).

Jesus does not allow us to be strangers with Him for long. He will initiate moments when we will recognize Him. He will call us by name in intimate friendship. He will bless us abundantly when we act in obedience to His call. He will meet us in the Eucharist each time, when He breaks bread with us.

Jesus, too, wants us to recognize Him in the gardeners, fishermen, fellow travelers, and many other simple people we interact with each day. Jesus wants us to see Him in the poor, in the least of our brethren. We need to be more aware, to look more intently, for we shall surely see Him in them.

As we recognize Jesus in others, hopefully they will also see Jesus in us. Will they? Are we sharing Jesus enough for others to see Jesus in ourselves?

This too, recognizing Jesus in each other, is what Easter is all about.

Happy Easter to all!

(Jose Tale, a lawyer, is a member of the International Council of Couples for Christ.)












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