Thursday of the Octave of Easter
The Appearance to the Disciples in Jerusalem
The renowned artist Paul Gustave Dore (1821-1883) lost his passport while travelling in Europe. When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore hoped he would be recognized and allowed to pass. The guard, however, said that many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be persons they were not.
Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. “All right,” said the official, “we’ll give you a test, and if you pass it we’ll allow you to go through.” Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch several peasants standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skillfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. His work confirmed his word! (From Our Daily Bread, January 6, 1993)
In today gospel passage, Jesus appears to His eleven apostles and wants to reassure them at great lengths that He is not a ghost. He emphasizes His material and visible characteristics. He asks them to “look” at His wounds, to “touch” Him and finally, like a final proof of his being truly risen, He asks them for something to eat. He explains how the scriptures foretold His death and rising. St. Jerome comments: “As he showed them real hands and a real side, he really ate with his disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them….Do not put the power of the Lord on the level with the tricks of magicians, so that he may appear to have been what he was not, and may be thought to have eaten without teeth, walked without feet, broken bread without hands, spoken without a tongue, and showed a side which had no ribs.” (From a Letter to Pammachius against John of Jerusalem 34, 5th century)
Particularly, we know that Jesus in His glorified body does not need to eat. He eats for the sake of His apostles. He eats, not so much for the material aspect of eating, but for its social dimension. For us human beings, because we are not pure spirits, practically almost everything that comes to us has to pass a humanizing process, even our most fundamental bodily needs. Even the noblest things, like our faith in God, reach us through our senses because somebody has told it to us or has shown concrete witnessing about it. God has given to us the things we want not through a magic or fairy tales but also through a human means. There is a philosophical adage that says, “Nothing is in the mind that was not first in the senses.” That is why, somebody had commented, we eat not just to fill ourselves and be satisfied. We should also see the human aspects of eating. For example, when we eat as a family, bonds are strengthened. When we eat with friends, we get closer to them. It’s good to enjoy the meal, but it’s even better to enjoy the company.
By means of this thing Jesus did we can say and understand why we use images of saints and other visible signs to express our Catholic faith too. The use of images is not idolatry. It is because idolatry is divinization of a creature in place of God; the substitution of someone/thing for God; worshiping a creature (even money, pleasure or power) instead of the Creator (CCC no. 2112). We are not doing this. We are not substituting God with anyone/anything. It is because images are referred to God and His special friends, the saints in heaven. Images emphasize the reality of the incarnation of Christ. And Canon Law (no. 1171) adds: “Sacred objects set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons.”