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. Luke 21:41-43
“Incredulous for joy!” What a great description of the disciples’ reaction to Jesus! To be “incredulous” means that the disciples were not sure what to believe. They were hesitant to believe in what they were seeing. There was Jesus, whom they saw crucified, standing before them with the wounds in His hands and feet. He was talking to them and asked for something to eat. They were in a bit of shock, disbelief, and uncertainty.
But the description says that they were incredulous “for joy!” It’s as if they were waiting to explode with joy, they wanted to experience joy in what they were seeing, but something was holding them back. It all seemed to be too good. Was it true? Could it be that Jesus really conquered death and was once again back with them?
I cannot remember the last time I was “incredulous for joy” when I was just overwhelmed with amazement. Any incredulity I experience quickly turns to suspicion, then to discouragement, then to anger. I have found myself growing more and more incredulous these past weeks but incredulous for fear, anger, discouragement, impatience, etc., etc. I have allowed this time of pandemic and quarantine to take my joy. Albeit, we did not have the opportunity to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ with solemnity and festival. We were not able to visit family and friends and celebrate our belief that Christ died and rose again for us. Christ has indeed risen, and no pandemic or quarantine can change that!
This reaction of the disciples reveals an experience that we all have at times when invited by God to enter into His glory and grace. So often, when God invites us closer to Himself, when He invites us to experience the joy of His Resurrection, we react with hesitancy. We can find it hard to let ourselves experience the reality of the Resurrection in our lives.
This can happen for many reasons. Discouragement is one cause for our hesitancy to embrace the Resurrection fully. The disciples were deeply discouraged at the death of Jesus. And now that He had risen, and was standing there before them, they were hesitant to let go of that discouragement they let take hold. Yesterday we read the Gospel passage of the encounter of Cleopas and the other disciple meeting Christ after his Resurrection. They were afraid and discouraged, and it was not until they experienced Christ in the Breaking of the Bread, and He vanished from their sight that they became incredulous for Joy. The had a brief encounter with the risen Christ, and it sustained them and strengthened them.
This Easter may be one we would like to forget, but I don’t think we will, and we cannot allow this time of quarantine and separation to steal our joy and hope. I have a friend who is a nun and has been desperate to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist. Like many, she has been watching Mass on television or the internet, but as she says, “it’s not the same.” Sister was allowed to receive the Eucharist at Easter because her pastor invited her to attend Easter Sunday Mass in which he was permitted to stream on the internet. She declined because she wanted to let someone else have the opportunity to receive. Sister said, “all those years of receiving the Eucharist daily, all the opportunities to true communion with Christ must be enough to sustain my joy.” When she told me this, I became incredulous for shame. I was astounded by my own lack of faith. I was amazed by the realization that all the times I had received communion in the past meant so little to me that I could only complain and become angry that I was not able to say Mass with my parishioners. I have allowed the brief moments of prayer that I squeeze in between continually watching the news to become less and less the focus of my day. Why have I become so angry over the Coronavirus, suspension of public Mass, and stay at home orders? Did all those opportunities I had to confect the Eucharist, Celebrate Mass publicly and worship with the people I been called to serve to mean so little to me?
So also, we can easily let the weight of the world, our sin, or the sins of others get to us. We can get angry or upset and find ourselves brewing over the apparent problems we face. Taking joy in the Resurrection means we turn our eyes away from those things and look intently at the realities God wants us to focus on. It does no good to become discouraged with the many problems that come our way. Instead, our Lord is regularly calling us to look beyond them to something greater. He is calling us to look to His victory! Looking at His victory is freeing and produces an incredible faith in our lives. And that faith in the Risen Lord will have the effect of a wonderful joy that God wants us to have.
Reflect, today, upon your own reaction to the reality of the Resurrection of our Lord. Spend some time today gazing upon the Risen Lord. Look at His victory. Look at His glory. Look at Him who calls you to a deep faith. With your eyes fixed on Him, all else that tempts you to discouragement simply fades away.
Rev. Fr. Douglas Ondeck