It is Easter. Jesus is risen. We saw a man who was hanged on the Cross and who had died; He has shown us His Glory and that He now lives – to us not in the way He lived before but in a different way. We are invited to believe and see, like Thomas, not just Jesus the man, the good man, the prophet, the king but our Lord and God, His divinity.
In today’s gospel in Luke 24:48 Jesus says: “you are witnesses to this.”
What are we witnesses to? Just before saying this, He stood amongst them, for the first time, risen, in His glorified nature and the disciples find it hard to believe it is truly the Jesus they knew. Then He gives them his last words before ascending to the Father. A last testimony so to speak, words to be heeded.
“ ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, was destined to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’” Luke 24:44-48.
Jesus himself had to take the initiative to open their minds to the Scriptures. This means that the Scriptures were closed to them before the Resurrection. They were mere dead words, words in which they were unable to believe. Words covered in a veil. Yet Jesus said that: “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63.
Or perhaps the words were not dead, but the apostles and all people were as yet unable to see the (divine) life and (Holy) Spirit which they contained still in a hidden form? We can see a parallel with the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. Was it Jesus that was transfigured or did He remain as He always was, but with the eyes of the apostles opened to His Divinity by a special grace?
How did the words of the Old Testament, of Scripture, become words of spirit and life?
It’s as if the words of Scripture were also ‘crucified’ with Jesus. What are words if no one believes them? We know that no one believed neither the words of the Old Testament which foretold of the Messiah, the servant and his suffering as Isaiah so eloquently shows us, nor in the words that Jesus Himself spoke to his followers. He told them on at least three occasions that He was to die and rise again and yet they all, except for Mary, his Mother, rush to the tomb, a place for the dead not the living. Neither do they recognise Him immediately when He appears risen – Mary of Magdala thinks He is the gardener. The disciples of Emmaus do not recognise Him until the breaking of the bread, after having received an immense grace from Jesus where He explained to them the passages in the Old Testament which speak about Him. The apostles themselves, when He appears before them in the Upper Room in today’s gospel, think He is a ghost at first and Jesus must convince them by showing them his wounds and even eating a piece of fish.
The crucial exception here is of course Our Lady. She, being Immaculate, was never blind to the words of Scripture. She believed in the promise and in the words of the angel and through her the Word, the words of Scripture (Scripture which contains all of Jesus’ truths) became flesh. He, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word, became flesh but also the words became ‘flesh’ almost literally. The words of Scripture were never closed to Mary – she was always able to see what was hidden to her fellow Jews. She pondered them – she was able to ponder, to contemplate because she was full of grace, of the Holy Spirit. She held fast to the words during the Passion … she believed in her Son and in His words.
Jesus is risen. Something about the way we are supposed to see Jesus has changed. He wants us to see beyond His human nature. He wants us to recognise His Divinity.
Jesus is the Word of God as St. John says. The eternal word. He has always been present and always will be. It’s as if the words of Jesus, the Word, those in the Old as well as the New Testament have been resurrected with Him. Just as we are only able to access His Divinity after the Resurrection, with Mary’s faith, so too the veil is lifted from his words by a special grace from the Resurrection and we can access the divine core, always present, of the words of Scripture.
The words were dead and now they live… Even though the Holy Spirit, Christ’s Spirit, was the author together with the Prophets and other human authors of Scripture, His divinity was deeply hidden, buried until the glory of Jesus brings it forth.
Just as He broke His body for us on the Cross, He also ‘broke’ the words to show forth their power. They become words of Holy Spirit and Divine Life.
As we receive Jesus’ body, blood, soul and Divinity in the Eucharist under the form of human bread, so also do we receive His Holy Spirit, His Divinity through the form of human words written on the pages of the Scriptures proclaimed to us in the first part of the mass. Peter in Acts 3:22 tells us “Moses, for example, said, “From among your brothers the Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me; You will listen to whatever he tells you. Anyone who refuses to listen to that prophet shall be cut off from the people.” These are strong words, and we would all be doomed had Jesus not lifted the veil for us, healed our blindness. We know that the Jews and even Jesus’ close followers were expecting a worldly King who would reign over them and free them from the foreign rule they were living under. They read the words of the Scriptures but only saw their outer human layer. The hidden life within had not yet been opened to them. Now, with the Resurrection, we have been healed from our blindness and can access the Holy Spirit within.
We are told endlessly by Jesus, by Mary, as well as by the Father Himself that we should listen to Him. John 14:23 “ Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make a home in him.” Luke 2:5 “ His mother said to the servants, Do whatever he tells you.” Luke 9:35 “And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.” We listen to Jesus by listening to the words of Scripture and there He shows us who He really is, Our Lord and Our God, as Thomas finally recognises. It is through Scripture that we access His Divinity, we recognise Him as the Almighty.
Before the Resurrection we were unable to believe in His words; after His Resurrection, where He gives us His Holy Spirit, His very Life, and the capacity to believe in Him with Mary, we are enabled to dive deeply into His Divine nature and get to know the very Father. As Jesus said at the Last Supper in John 14:24 “And the word that you hear is not my own: it is the word of the Father who sent me. I have said these things to you while still with you; but the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name (In Hebrew thinking the ‘name’ is often used to stand for the full power of the person), will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.”
By lifting the veil from Scripture Jesus shows us Himself, His Holy Spirit, His Divinity and the Father Himself. The image of who Jesus really is changes for us. The human covering of the words of Scripture and words of Jesus were also crucified with Him on the cross and they are now also new, resurrected, no longer dead. Before they did not give Life, but now with Jesus, in His light, they are alive and full of the Holy Spirit. They are our spiritual food and nourish us in a way they could not do before His Passion. The power of the Resurrection unlocked the mystery, resurrected His body but also His words.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. “Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written.”
The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.
112 Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.
The phrase “heart of Christ” can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.
On the Road to Emmaus
“13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles a from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognising him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24)