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We, too, can see the risen Lord

The Vatican has chosen a painting by Ukraine-born artist Vitaliy Shtanko for its 2024 Easter stamp. The painting depicts the Risen Lord appearing to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb as recounted in John 20:11-18. (CNS photo/courtesy of the Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office)

"We have seen the Lord.”

That’s what the other disciples said to Thomas on Easter evening. But, as we all know, Thomas refused to believe in the Resurrection unless he saw and touched the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and the wound in his side.

Jesus appeared again to the disciples a week later, on what we now celebrate as Divine Mercy Sunday. He allowed Thomas to see and touch, and Thomas famously proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

Throughout the Octave of Easter – from Easter Sunday through the next Sunday – the Gospel readings tell us of multiple times the disciples saw Jesus. I wonder if we could continue our efforts begun in Lent and try hard to see the risen Jesus ourselves, maybe not with our human eyes but with the eyes of faith.

Perhaps some of those first sightings of the risen Jesus can help us better see the Lord today in our own lives. Whether they are found in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, these stories are a scriptural mosaic that show us how people’s hearts are opened to the Lord’s presence.

On Easter Sunday, we heard John’s account of Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb “while it was still dark,” seeing the stone rolled away, and wondering where “they had put Jesus.” Do we seek Jesus with the same fervor that Mary did?

Peter and John ran to the tomb and seeing the burial cloths and the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head rolled up separately, they believed. A seemingly small detail made all the difference. Do we see Jesus in the little details and everyday moments?

On Monday, we heard Matthew’s version in which Mary “and the other Mary” leave the tomb “fearful yet overjoyed.” They meet Jesus on the way to tell the disciples and do him homage. Do we take time to praise and thank God when we meet him in small or big moments?

John continues with another post-Resurrection appearance in Tuesday’s Gospel when Mary Magdalene is weeping outside the tomb. After seeing two angels in the tomb who ask why she is crying, she turns and sees who she thinks is the gardener. She sees Jesus when he calls her by name. Do we listen and try to hear Jesus calling us by name?

Jesus’ appearance to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus is one of my favorites. The two were discussing all that happened when Jesus joined them on the journey. They were walking away from everything that had happened, discouraged because they were hoping that Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel.

Jesus proceeded to explain all that referred to him in the Scriptures. After they begged him to stay because their hearts were burning within them, they recognized him at the meal in the breaking of the bread.

We have the same privilege today in the gift of the Eucharist. Jesus is truly present in the breaking of the bread at every Mass. Do we make time to experience him that way? And do we truly recognize the Eucharist for what it is?

Later in the week, we hear another account from John when “Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.” It was like their journey with Jesus had come to an end, and they were back in their hometown of Galilee and to their old profession of fishing. Jesus appeared, again unrecognized, and told them to cast their net over the right side of the boat. The net was so full they couldn’t pull it in. Jesus can make us all “fishers of men” if we let him work in us.

We don’t read the continuation of that story until later in the Easter season when Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” When Peter answers yes each time – undoing his three denials during the Passion – Jesus tells him to feed and tend his sheep. The Lord asks us the same question today, and wants us to feed and care for our neighbor. We see Jesus in our neighbor.

In these and other stories, people recognized Jesus in their midst. And when they did, they became emboldened to preach and teach the Resurrection to others.

Perhaps the tools the Church gives us for Lent – prayer, fasting and almsgiving – can also help us see Jesus after his Resurrection.

Through our own sacrifices, we may understand more fully how much the Lord loves us. Through prayer, which is simply talking to Jesus, we may recognize that he is always with us. Through almsgiving, we recognize Jesus in the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned or sick.

Let’s continue to look for Jesus, confident that we, too, will see him in the ways he chooses to make himself known to us. Lent is not the end of the journey. We can take another step or more toward the Lord during this Easter season. The spring weather and the re-emergence of life all around us helps make the Resurrection even more real.

May we continue to hear, see and recognize the risen Lord within us and among us, especially in this glorious Easter season and as we prepare for Pentecost and the Holy Spirit coming into our lives and our hearts.

(Msgr. John Enzler serves as the mission advocate of Catholic Charities of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and is a chaplain at his alma mater, St. John’s College High School in Washington. He writes the Faith in Action column for the archdiocese’s Catholic Standard and Spanish-language El Pregonero newspapers and websites.)