April 13, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tuesday within the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 2:36-41) Gospel (St. John 20:11-18)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear of this appearance of Our Lord to Saint Mary Magdalene and how Our Lord was not recognized by Saint Mary Magdalene until He called her by name. This is something that is quite important for us because it tells us that God, in the way that He deals with us, does not always allow Himself to be immediately recognized. We go to prayer and sometimes it is very dry – most of the time it is very dry. We deal with people out in the world and what we see oftentimes is anything but the Lord at work. That is, the way that people deal with us, the events that happen in our lives, sometimes we fail to see God in those things and in those people. Yet it is precisely this point: that it is Our Lord Who is at work and asking us for an act of faith.
Saint Mary Magdalene could not be blamed in the least for not recognizing Jesus. But we, on the other hand, do not have that excuse. We have her example. We have the example of the saints. We just think of Mother Teresa, for instance, who said that the reason she was able to care for these poor and unfortunate souls was because she saw Jesus in each one of them. So we know that these are the things we can do as well and that Jesus allows Himself to be hidden so that those with faith will be able to recognize Him.
We recall that for the three years He was with His apostles they did not recognize Him. It was not until the Holy Spirit came upon them that they really understood Who He was and why He had to do what He did. But we have that Holy Spirit. When the people of old asked Peter and the apostles, “What are we to do?” they said, “Be baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will receive the Holy Spirit.” We already have that Holy Spirit, and He is the One Who is given to lead us into all truth. That truth, of course, is Jesus Christ. And so if we have our hearts open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, it is to be able then to see the working of Christ in our lives, to be able to see that somehow in a way that we do not understand every single thing that happens in our lives is ordered for the good. As Saint Paul says, “All things work together for the good of those who believe.”
And so, once again, we ask ourselves, “Am I able to see the Lord at work? Do I recognize Him present in the events of my day-to-day life? In the people whom I encounter? In the things that happen, whether they seem to be positive or negative?” All of it is part of what God’s Will for us is. Again, we just look at what Mary Magdalene encountered and how she interpreted it. Here she comes to the tomb and the body is not there. Her initial interpretation is that somebody has taken the body and laid it somewhere else. It seems very negative. She weeps; she begins to walk away; she does not see that it is the Lord at work. She does not recognize, of course, what had happened with the Resurrection because she did not understand that. And then the Lord calls her by name. Then she understood; then she recognized Him. So too, in our own lives, when various things occur and we originally assume that they are negative, when the Lord calls each one of us and He points out to us what His Will is in all of these things, then we are able to see them in a different light.
So that is the lesson we can learn: to be able to see Christ in everything, to be able to see His Will in all the things that occur in our day-to-day lives, to be able to understand that even the things that seem so negative at first God will use for our good and that all of it somehow is part of God’s Will for us. In the Resurrected Christ, we are to have a change of mind and of heart. We are to be able to see things from a different perspective, to see things from God’s perspective, to be able to share in the glory of the Resurrection. Part of that is to be able to see that the Resurrected Christ is not always immediately recognized, but He is present; and where He has been, His angels are going to be present as well. As the Lord continues to work in our lives, we have to understand that He has sent His angels to help us, to enlighten our hearts. He has sent His Holy Spirit to open our hearts and our minds to the fullness of truth and to lead us to Himself.
We now need to pray and to ask Him for that grace to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and to be able to see Him at work in our lives so that in the people and the events that take place in our lives we are able to see Jesus Christ, not in the form that we would expect to see Him, but truly as the One Who is the Teacher, the One Who is teaching us the most important lessons and helping us to grow in virtue. He will show us eventually what it was that He was doing and why; we will understand. Immediately, we do not – until He calls us by name – and then we see and understand. In the meantime, we accept on faith. We trust. And we have to believe that it is He Who is present and He Who is at work in every event and in the person of every individual that we meet in our day-to-day lives. He is working to teach us the lessons that He wants for each one of us to learn.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.