Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you."
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have."
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them,
"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled."
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
"Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things."
Fears, worries, doubts - we all have them. The disciples "were startled and terrified" in this Sunday's Gospel. Two disciples were telling them about seeing Jesus, but they did not know what to make of that. They let fear and worry cloud their mind and prevent them from understanding that Jesus had risen and was standing before them.
When I was younger, I always said my two greatest fears were cancer and being alone. As a child, both my grandfather and a beloved aunt died from cancer, so to me, that was terrifying. It was a miserable, painful way to die, and I did not want to suffer as they did, nor suffer to watch, as those around them did. This was a rational fear to have. It is not a pleasant disease.
And, when I said I was scared of being alone, it was not fear of being alone in a room or a house. Instead, my fear arose from a lack of self-confidence, always needing someone to reassure me, encourage me, counsel me. I have always made friends relatively easy, but not close friends. It takes me a long time to feel comfortable enough with someone that I can open up fully to them. Until I can do that, I generally feel alone. Growing up, we moved a lot, and I was always hoping for a new friend in each place with whom I could be completely honest. This usually took some time.
My heart, however, has been opened to the Lord and His ways since adolescence. Fortunately, because I have already faced a near-miss with ovarian cancer, [the tumor went away on its own a month after it was discovered, despite several tests indicating it was malignant] and because I have a renewed appreciation for the value of suffering [thanks to a dear friend who silently witnessed to me before eventually dying of cystic fibrosis complications], my first fear of cancer is no more.
My eyes are now open to see that whatever God hands me, I will face with His help. He has taught me through my life experiences, through the encounters I have had with His Word and the teachings of His Church, and through other people that He will never leave me, even if I think He is not there. The clouds of that fear have lifted to reveal even the beauty of such suffering. Try SALVIFICI DOLORIS if you need a place to start such a journey.
Being afraid of being alone, though, is not completely gone. Instead of a fear, it is more of a sorrow. I dislike being alone. I always wish to have someone with whom to share my joys and sorrows. My husband, fortunately, is most often that person for me, but there are some times that our schedules, my respect for his needs, and prudence dictate that I must keep silent. It is during those periods that I suffer in the interior of my heart and can only share with my Lord. And even then, there are still clouds in my mind when I cannot let go of the feeling of being alone to have confidence in God's living presence in my life.
What are my fears today? Do I have complete confidence in the words Jesus speaks through the Gospel? Or, like the disciples, am I waiting for proof that I should have confidence in Him? Imagine - two disciples share their experience of Jesus coming to them. Then, Jesus Himself comes amidst them, and they are still "incredulous." It takes the physical evidence of Jesus eating a piece of fish to prove to the disciples that He is not a ghost. Then, their minds are opened. What do we demand of Jesus to allow us to let go of our fears and doubts? A sign? A guarantee?
Lord, help me to "be not afraid." Give me the inner strength to have confidence in your loving mercy and your divine power alive in my life! I know that you will not abandon me, and I am sorry for the times I have abandoned you. Bless me with the grace and peace you gave the disciples between Easter and Pentecost. Help me believe.