All Easter day Jesus was playing hide and seek, surprising different disciples in different places and in different ways, all of these encounters beyond anything they ever thought they would see and know. It had been an overwhelming day, a world inside out day.
They had denied, laughed, and no doubt cried. They experienced impossible things they could hardly process. It was too astonishing to make sense.
By Easter evening, they were settled for the time being, and they said, “Stay with us Lord, for evening draws near.” (Lk. 24:29)
They got to be with him for forty more undoubtedly beautiful days.
It must have been hard to stop looking at him, hard to stop hugging him, hard to calm down and just be with him. Maybe it was easier in the glow of the fire to relax in his presence, to enjoy his tenderness and love for them, to truly believe in his reality.
He had shown the disciples his wounds, invited them to touch him, eat and drink with him. He wanted them to know he wasn’t a ghost, of course. But I also think he wanted to reiterate something of the utmost importance in the spiritual life of a Christian; that Our Lord is a real person. After the resurrection, he is still as real as before, the same man they experienced and traveled with during his ministry… except for that walking through locked doors thing, and that rising from the dead part… still their same holy Friend.
His disciples are not having a vision, but actual contact.
There is always the temptation among people of prayer over the centuries of Christianity, to relate to Jesus as only spirit. St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) saw this and the Doctor of Prayer made sure we understood that the only way to true intimacy with the Lord is through his Sacred Humanity. We are not angel spirits, but human beings, and that is our way to him who became incarnate for us.
He still is incarnate for us.
It is amazing to me that this Teacher who tended to buck religious regulations, customs and rituals if they got in the way of necessity, or especially, the obedience of the love of God and the pre-eminence of charity, to suddenly, at the end of his earthly life, give us the Eucharist and make it a permanent ritual sacrament for all time. In the Eucharist, we will always have his physical presence with us as well as his divine presence. We will always be able to eat and drink with him (and of him) at mass.
We can sit with him in Adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, as a real and accessible person.
He said, “I will be with you always until the end of the age.” Mtt. 28:20
Sometimes we forget the Treasure we have in the Eucharist.
Because he is a real person, but also divine, we can take him home with us, too, and say, “Stay with us, Lord.”
He said, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (Jn. 14:20) This isn’t just a nice thought. His presence in us is so real that that is exactly how our bodies will rise from death on the last day.
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom. 8:11) How real can he get?
And also, St. Paul asks, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?” (2 Cor. 13:5b)
Jesus is real and he is within us as real.
St. Teresa would add “and we should not leave him there alone!”
He said, “No longer do I call you servants but friends.” (Jn. 15:15a)
We can’t be friends with an idea. We can’t fall in love with a vision or a ghost.
But Jesus with his dirty feet and rough calloused hands, Jesus the real person, we definitely can.
We can love him and see him the way he wants to be seen and loved: as real! (Jn. 20:27)
St. Teresa said that interior prayer and being with Jesus is “nothing else but falling in love with Christ, frequently conversing in secret with him who we know loves us.” (translation, Fr. Otillio Rodrigues, O.C.D.)
The Christian life is a life of friendship with Jesus in his Sacred Humanity, with a real and accessible, truly present and incomprehensibly humble Lord who is truly in and with us.
We too should look at him, touch him, peek in at him when he is sleeping to make sure he is still there, hear his voice as alive and active, ask him, “Stay with us Lord.”