Column: The risen Christ renews his call to his disciples — and to us

by Father Mike Stubbs

When someone close to us dies, it often tears a hole in the fabric of our lives. It leaves loose ends — plans unrealized, words unspoken, dreams that will never materialize.

Perhaps we had intended to hold a conversation about a mutual concern, but never followed through on that intention. Now, it is too late.

Jesus’ death must have resulted in this sort of rupture in the lives of his disciples. In particular, their abandonment of Jesus in his hour of need called for them to seek forgiveness from Jesus. They deserted Jesus when he was arrested. Peter, the chief of the apostles, disowned him three times.

The disciples needed to seek forgiveness from Jesus, but how were they to do that? He was dead. How could they repair the damage done to their relationship with Jesus when they abandoned him?

The good news of Jesus’ resurrection meant that the disciples could renew their relationship with Jesus. They could find forgiveness. They could start over again, if he would wipe the slate clean.

We can hear this message of forgiveness and renewal in the Gospel reading for the Easter Vigil, which can also be used Easter Sunday morning, Mk 16:1- 7. Three women visit the tomb of Jesus, and so are the first to hear the news of his resurrection. Significantly, the female disciples of Jesus were the ones to least merit the charge of deserting him, since they watched from a distance as he suffered on the cross. True, they watched from a safe distance, but they did not completely abandon him. It is appropriate that they should be the first to hear of his resurrection.

The angel at the empty tomb instructs the women to relay the news to the other disciples: “But go and tell his disciples and Peter.” We might ask why Peter is separated out from the other disciples. Perhaps, he is singled out as a way to underline his importance as the chief of the apostles. But there is another possibility. Maybe this is a way of saying that, since Peter denied Jesus three times, he no longer deserves the name of disciple. Maybe the angel is putting Peter in his place. That would also be a way to remind Peter of his need for forgiveness.

The angel charges the women to tell the disciples: “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”

Why does Jesus choose Galilee as the place where he will meet again with the disciples? Perhaps it is because it was in Galilee that Jesus originally called the disciples to follow him. Jesus wishes to renew that call. He wants his disciples to start over again. He wants to forgive them, to make that possible.

The risen Christ wants the same thing for us. His forgiveness of our sins also enables us to start over again, to have new life. Easter means the victory of life over death, the triumph of the cross over the grave. It also means the victory of forgiveness over sin.

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