The celebration of Easter, either at the Great Vigil or Easter Day Sunday, can often limit our vision to perceiving this momentous event of the Paschal Mystery as being the culmination of the “story”. Consequently the season of Eastertide seemingly does not get the spiritually festive and profoundly significant attention it deserves; during which time, for example, the Bible records thirteen post-resurrection appearances by Christ; which are as follows:
* His Appearance to Mary Magdalene as a Gardener (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18).
* His Appearance to the Other Two Women who were with Mary Magdalene – Salome and Mary Mother of James (Matthew 28:9-10).
* His Appearance to Peter (Luke 24:34).
* His Appearance to the Two Disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32).
* His Appearance to the Apostles except for Thomas (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25).
* His Appearance to the Apostles with Thomas (John 20:26-29).
* His Appearance to the Apostles on the Shores of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25).
* His Appearance to the Apostles on a Mountain in Galilee (Matthew 2816-20; Mark 16:15-18).
* His Appearance to over 500 Brethren (1 Corinthians 15:6).
* His Appearance to His Brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7).
* His Appearance to the Apostles and ate a Meal with Them (Acts 1:3-8; Luke 24:44-49).
* His Ascension (Acts 1:9-12; Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53).
* His Appearance to Paul (1 Corinthians 15:8; Acts 9:1-6; 18:9-10; 23:11).
Do we, perhaps, gloss over some of these as being tertiary in importance as compared to, obviously, the Feast of the Ascension; the disciples on the Road to Emmaus; the “doubting Thomas”? But in a way, regardless of their particularity and unique significance, taken together their whole is greater than the sum of their parts in terms of our faith.
Why is this important and meaningful? It would be difficult to envision Christianity as existing at all without Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and the post resurrection appearances to eye witnesses. Perhaps a school of philosophic thought would have emerged as a result of Christ’s teachings; or he could have become seen as a prophet and included in the canon of Jewish scripture. Indeed, if there were to be a house of worship on the property now occupied by St. Mary’s it might very well be a synagogue. But the reality is that with Christ’s resurrection and his appearances that followed to the apostles and others, and with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church and our faith were birthed. And what is this faith? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). And where does it come from? “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is a gift from God…” (Ephesians 2:8). The resurrection of Christ from the dead, and the appearances of his resurrection to eye witnesses are foundational to our faith, all of which is a gift of God’s grace and love. And this truth is worth celebrating not just at Easter, or during Eastertide, or Pentecost, or Christmas, or on Sunday morning but every day throughout the year. To which we all should acclaim ALLELUIA!