Why Don’t They Recognize Jesus?

Blessed Easter!

If you have ever gone to Mass during the Octave of Easter and listened to the various accounts of Jesus’ appearances after he rose from the dead, it’s striking: nobody recognizes Jesus!

I have heard all kinds of reasons given in sermons and books: No one expected him to rise from the dead (except his Mother, and we have no account of Jesus’ appearance to Mary, who would have recognized her Son no matter what!); the appearance of Jesus’ risen body was so different that they couldn’t tell it was him; they were so blinded by their grief and tears; they didn’t believe he could or would rise from the dead; they didn’t really look at Jesus when they were speaking to him, etc. Maybe it was some combination of all of these.

But really, it’s quite a mystery. Emotions must have been running high—at first over Jesus’ death, and then over the accounts of his Resurrection! But that still doesn’t explain why so many of the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. Yet, these are wonderful Scripture passages to reflect on in the light of our current discernment. How many times we do not recognize the Provident hand of God guiding us until afterwards…maybe years later? Why do we struggle so hard to see God’s presence in our lives, to hear his invitations, to recognize his will for us?

I think the real question is, What interior blindness prevents us from recognizing the Lord in our current situation?

For me, I often find that it is my expectation of a situation or a person that prevents me from seeing how the Lord could be present when the situation turns out to be so utterly different than what I thought it would. To have expectations is not wrong; that is simply to be human. But to cling to my own expectations and not be able to let go of them—that blinds me to staying in the present moment and thus, to the Lord’s invitation to me.

Some of the obstacles to discerning the Lord’s presence that we see in this week’s Resurrection accounts are:

  • weeping, grief, loss
  • fear
  • the traumatic effects of witnessing their beloved Master’s torture and death
  • not looking
  • hopelessness/discouragement
  • doubt
  • disbelief
  • expectations of something different
  • lack of trust in others’ witness accounts
  • not listening earlier to Jesus’ words about rising from the dead
  • guilt (over denying Jesus)
  • distance
  • hardness of heart

To Bring To Prayer

Pray with one of this week’s Gospel readings in light of a person/situation/event in your life where you cannot discern the presence or will of the Lord. How does the Gospel passage you chose “speak” to why you cannot recognize the Lord?

MK 16:1-7 The angel tells the women “He is not here”

MT 28:8-15 Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and “the other” Mary

JN 20:11-18 Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene

LK 24:13-35 Jesus appears to the disciples on the way to Emmaus

LK 24:35-48 Jesus appears to the disciples in the Upper Room

JN 21:1-14 Jesus appears to the disciples fishing

MK 16:9-15 Summary of the accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection

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