Au In the beginning was the Word

1. By reading the Gospel’s passages referring to (in different ways) the experiences of the Lord resurrected, the critical demands or conditions that identify his presence appear again and again: "that he be of flesh and bone", "that he eat", "that he can be seen and felt.” They are the demands of the ones who, in the end, interpret the resurrection as reanimation of the body. But things are not like that. If we read with attention chapter 12 of Tobit’s book, we learned better the passages of the Gospel that announce the resurrection of Jesus. The Tobit passage serve as a base for the first disciples when they receive the message from the angel and discover that Christ is alive, that he has risen..

2. At first, the experience of the disciples is a failure (Lk 24,21) and, furthermore confusing: They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him (Jn 20,2). Today also, as before, there is an invitation to us to lean into the empty coffin and, overcoming vertigo, to see and to believe (20,9).

3. St. Mathew talks about an angel dressed in white (Mt 28,2-3); St. John, about two white angels (Jn 20,12); St. Luke, about two men with dazzling garments (Lk 24,4); St. Mark, about a young man, clothed in a white robe (Mk 16,5). There are different ways of saying the same experience: the message of the angel (a man, young), the Word of God that enlighted an arduous and disorienting situation. Death, even death on a cross (Phil 2,8), is not the last word. The same that happens with the young man who runs away naked from those who try to seize him and they are left with only  the linen cloth (Mk 14,51-52), thus happens with Jesus. He runs away from their hands: ¡He has risen !.

4. But let us go to Tobit’s text, a book written perhaps around year 200 B.C. Tobit says to his son Tobiah: Son, see to it that you give what is due to the man who made the journey with you; give him a bonus too (Tb 12,1). The man has been like an angel, but there are things that cannot be paid with money. Tobiah anwers him: It would not hurt me at all to give him half of all the wealth he brought back with me. He led me back safe and sound; he cured my wife; he brought the money back with me; and he cured you. How much of a bonus should I give him? Tobit answered: It is only fair, son, that he should receive half of all that he brought back (Tb12,2-4).

5. The man called the two men aside privately and said to them: Give him the praise and the glory. Before all the living, acknowledge the many good things he has done for you, by blessing and extolling his name in song. Before all men, honor and proclaim God’s deeds (Tb 12,6). This is really the experience of Pentecost: all proclaim the glory of God (Acts 2,11). And this is the mission that the newborn Church receives from the Resurrected Lord: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations (Mt 28,19). The man also said to them: Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness (Tb 12,8). This is the experience of the first Christians: they had all things in common (2,44-45).

6. The man, as an angel of the Lord, intercedes for Tobit: when he was praying, when he was burying the dead, when he rises from the table, quickly leaving the food… Now he came also with the mission of curing. The man identifies himself: I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord (Tb 12,15; see Rev 1,20; 8,2). Something similar is said by the prophet Amos: The Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants, the prophets (Am 3,7). All of this is fulfilled in the Gospel. Jesus dedicates to his disciples a special teaching: he shares with them the secrets of the Kingdom of God (Mk 4,11); furthermore Jesus teaches and cures (Mt 9,35).

7. The first reaction to God’s action and to the word of the angel (man, young), is anxiety and fear: Stricken with fear, the two men fell to the ground. But he said to them: No need to fear; you are safe (Tb 12,16-17). This is what happens to the women in front of the angels (men) that announce Christ’s resurrection: They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them: Why do you seek the living one among the dead? (Lk 24,5). And also: Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified; He is not here, for he has been raised (Mt 28,5-6; see Mk 16,6). The greeting of the Lord, so repeated, is like a visiting card or an introduction: Peace be with you (Jn 20,19.21.26; see Lk 24,37).

8. The man, witness of the action of God, does not claim anything for him, but for God. Give Him glory: When I came to you it was not out of any favor on my part, but because it was God’s will. So continue to thank him every day; praise him with song. Even though you watched me eat and drink. I did not really do so; what you were seeing was a vision (Tb 12,18-19). The experience of the disciples goes into the passage that serves as a support. Also, the Lord resurrected, in a way, eats: As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him: Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over. So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight (Lk 24,28-31; see 24,31). The Resurrected keeps the same customs.

9. But he vanished from their sight. The presence of the Lord escapes from the disciple’s hands. They would like to retain him, but it is impossible. It is the experience of Mary of Magdala, to whom Jesus says to her: Stop holding on to me (Jn 20,17). Jesus has a new way of presence, as a God. His life does not finish in the abysm of death, but in the highness of God: I ascend to him who sent me (Tb 12,20; see Jn 20,17). The key is the ascension, the exaltation. The last Word belongs to God. And he ascended. They rose to their feet and could no longer see him (Tb 12,21). Something similar is said in St. Luke’ s Gospel: As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven (Lk 24,51).

10. Everything finishes with thanksgiving: They kept thanking God and singing his praises; and they continued to acknowledge these marvelous deeds which he had done when the angel of God appeared to them (Tb 12,22). The gospel of St. Luke concludes in a similar way: They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God (Lk 24,52-53). The experience of the Lord Resurrected overflows the experience of faith that serves as support. The disciples did him homage as in act of worship. Even Thomas, the unbeliever, was satisfied, took away his critical demands and confessed with the newborn Church: my Lord and my God (Jn 20,28). The disciples do not forget the recommendation: Write down all these things that have happened to you (Tb 12,20; see Lk 1,1-4). The passages of the resurrection experience are the oldest part of the gospels.

11. Jesus Resurrected is present in history as a God, as a Lord. That is why he is only recognized by believers, that’s to say, for those who recognize God’s action within events. Thus, Jesus does not make himself present already, as a Jewish expression, in the weakness of the body and blood, but in the dynamic of the Spirit. As St. Paul says, no one can say: Jesus is the Lord!, except through the holy Spirit (1 Cor 12,3).

12. The resurrection of Jesus makes him the Lord of history and this is a transcendent event that –nevertheless- has historical signs really palpable for the believers. That is why they can say that Jesus walks with them (Lk 24,15), eats and drinks with them (24,34.43), fishes with them (Jn 21,6), gets together with them, arrives, even when the doors are shut (21,19). Jesus Resurrected is like a living God in the heart of history. And he repeats the signs that accompany him in his evangelized  mission,which allows him to be recognized. These signs confirm also the Word that announces the disciples (Mk 16,20).

* Dialogue: What conditions are demanded today to believe in the Resurrected Lord?