Priests often encounter people in crisis. Through my seminary education, I have learned some ways to accompany people through the tragic moments in their lives. One common approach is to help them put their problems in a more appropriate frame of reference. When disaster strikes, perceptions often become distorted, and working to ground the person more firmly in reality by offering accurate information enables them to navigate the situation better and take more control of the circumstances.
In the gospel reading this weekend, the disciples are unnerved by the death of Jesus. They are in crisis, and when the Lord appears in their midst, they are even more “startled and terrified.” Jesus knew that their hearts were “troubled” because of questions, doubts, and fears. He normalizes the state of affairs by giving them accurate information. “Look at my hands and my feet,” he says, “that it is I myself.” He allows them to touch his glorified body and even consumes food in front of them, so that they would know that he was not a “ghost.”
Indeed, fear and worry often arise from a lack of knowledge. Misinformation and irrational assessments can easily produce mistakes, false impressions, and errors of judgment. In the first reading, for example, Peter blames the people for demanding that Jesus be executed and a murderer released to them instead. Yet, he does not fault them entirely because they and their religious leaders “acted out of ignorance.” Their fear of the Romans led them to act accordingly. Had they known who Jesus really was, they never would have hung him “on a tree” (Acts 5:30).
We began a new message series on Easter Sunday that we are calling, Bold Moves. In last week’s message, we offered some clues from the gospel reading about how God is preparing you for a bold move in your life by drawing you deeper into his community of love. This week, when Jesus appeared to the disciples, he “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,” and “was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” In other words, he provided good information to comfort them and quell their fears.
We live in a confusing and troublesome world. While doubt and fear are a normal part of the human condition, they often are exaggerated by a lack of understanding about our faith. To have the courage to make a truly bold move in our lives, we first must spend the time and energy to grow in our faith.
Every morning, I spend just three minutes listening to a homily on the readings for the day (www.usccb.org) and reading a reflection from Notre Dame (www.faith.nd.edu). To the extent we are willing to learn about our faith, God will open our minds to the truth, overcome our ignorance, and open the doors to a great bold move for us.
Father Roger Gustafson