Jesus with us though invisible to us
Jesus is risen! Alleluia! Jesus is risen not just for himself but for all of us. Jesus rose from the dead to prove that he is our Savior. When Mary Magdalene discovered Jesus’ tomb empty on Easter Sunday morning, it must have reflected the emptiness she was feeling inside herself after his death (John 20:1-2). Before she met Jesus, she was a mess, but her life was totally transformed after meeting Jesus. Luke tells us that prior to meeting Jesus she had seven demons (Luke 8:2). Jesus fixed her life. After meeting Jesus, everything in her life was totally turned around and put in order. She became one of his followers, along with many other women and men followers besides the twelve apostles. I am sure we cannot imagine the emptiness she felt when she saw the tomb empty. She probably thought, “They crucified him and now they will not even let him rest in death and they took his body away.” That is why those who want to prove that Jesus rose, never use the empty tomb as a main point in their defense. It only means the tomb was empty but of course if it were not empty, they would nothing to prove.
Mary Magdalene must have been thinking that the one who gave meaning to her life, and set her on the right path, was no more and all her hopes were dashed. She ran to tell Peter and John that Jesus’ body had been taken from the tomb and she did not know where they had put him. She went back again as we see when we continue reading of the Gospel of John 20:11. She met someone whom she thought was a gardener but then recognized that it was Jesus. She did not recognize Jesus at first because in his glorified body after his resurrection, Jesus looked different. Now, at last, the emptiness of that long weekend was filled. Jesus had risen although he was invisible to her during her first visit to the tomb that day. That is how it is with us also. Jesus is risen but invisible to us. Mary Magdalene saw Jesus looking very different when she returned to the tomb the second time, and we also see Jesus looking very different in the form of consecrated bread and wine.
On Easter Sunday evening on the road to Emmaus, as soon as the two disciples leaving Jerusalem recognized Jesus at the breaking of the bread, Luke tells us Jesus vanished from their eyes (Luke 24:31). Luke does not say that Jesus went away or departed. What Luke really says in his Greek is that Jesus became invisible to the two disciples. In other words, Jesus was with them, but they could no longer see him. That is the way it is with us also. Jesus is with us, though we cannot see him, except when we see him in the Eucharist.
That was also how it was when Peter and John went to the tomb. We hear in the Gospel of John that when John saw the empty tomb he believed (John 20:8). He had not yet met the risen Jesus but already he believed. A week later, Jesus said to Thomas, who had refused to believe unless he could put his fingers into the wounds of the nails, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29) Blessed was John who believed when he went to the tomb on Sunday morning even though he had not seen Jesus. Blessed are we who have not seen and yet believe. Jesus is with us though invisible to us.
During this time of pandemic and war in Ukraine, it is good to remember that Jesus is with us though invisible to us. Jesus was, in effect, on his own during his agony in Gethsemane because the apostles went to sleep, but if you ever go through some kind of agony in Gethsemane, like Mary Magdalene during her first visit to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, you are not alone because Jesus is with you, beside you. The beautiful and well-known poem Footprints concludes this way,
I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
The very last words of Jesus at the end of Matthew’s Gospel are, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of time.” (Matt 28:20) Of course, above all, we are conscious of the presence of Jesus with us in the Eucharist as Jesus said in the synagogue in Capernaum,
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (John 6:53-56)
Jesus rose to conquer death and tell us that resurrection awaits each of us. But more than that, Jesus is with us now though invisible to our eyes. Blessed are we who have not seen and yet believe.