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The Cross Of Christ
Life Of Christ:
 Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross

 Resurrection Of Jesus

 Jesus Appears Repeatedly To His Disciples

 Ascension Of Jesus, And The Descent Of The Holy Ghost

 Read More Articles About: Life Of Christ

Jesus Appears Repeatedly To His Disciples

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

REPOSE and quiet reigned in the streets of Jerusalem. The dread cry of insatiate wrath against the Anointed of the Lord, which but three days before resounded through the city, was now hushed, and the disciples of Jesus timidly ventured to show themselves abroad.

" And behold, two of them went the same day to a town which was sixty furlongs from Jerusalem, named Emmaus. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that while they talked and reasoned with themselves, Jesus Himself also drawing near went with them; but their eyes were held that they should not know Him. And He said to them : What are these discourses that you hold one with another as you walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleophas, answering, said to Him: Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things that have been done there in these days? To whom He said: What things? And they said : Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty In work and word before God and all the people: and how our chief priests and princes delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him ; but we hoped that it was He that should have redeemed Israel: and now besides all this to-day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company affrighted us, who before it was light were at the sepulchre; and not finding His body, came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who say that He is alive. And some of our people went to the sepulchre, and found it was so as the women had said, but Him they found not. Then He said to them : O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things that were concerning Him. And they drew nigh to the town whither they were going: and He made as though He would go farther. But they constrained Him, saying: Stay with us, because it is toward evening and the day is now far spent. And He went in with them. And it came to pass, whilst He was at table with them, He took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him, and He vanished out of their sight. And they said one to the other: Was not out heart burning within us, whilst He spoke in the way, and opened to us the Scriptures? And rising up the same hour, they went back to Jerusalem : and they found the eleven gathered together, and those that were with them, saying: The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way: and how they knew Him in the breaking of the bread." (Luke xxiv. 13-35.)

These two disciples obtained an extraordinary favor from Jesus in return for their humble attention to His teachings and for their friendly hospitality to a stranger. He condescended to sit at table with them, and, as the holy Fathers remark, to dispense to them that same di-vine sacrament which He had administered to the apostles at the Last Supper. It was by virtue of this token of His unbounded love that they recognized Him. It is chiefly in holy communion that we recognize Jesus, and learn to appreciate His love for man. In our worthy communions, too, Jesus recognizes us as His disciples, for those who eat His flesh and drink His blood abide in Him, and He in them.

It appears from the above account of the Evangelist that the risen Christ had already appeared to Simon Peter, even before He manifested Himself to the disciples going to Emmaus. An ancient legend thus describes this apparition : When Mary Magdalen and the other devout women came back from the sepulchre, and told the apostles, "We have seen the Lord," Peter became sad and troubled, thinking to himself, and saying: "Al-though I was at the tomb as well as these women, the Lord did not deign to appear to me. Alas, He must be angry with me, because I denied Him so shamefully. Miserable, weak man that I am: what have I done! Overwhelmed with feelings of shame and remorse, he left the apostles, and went out of the city to a grotto to which he had been accustomed to retire for prayer and meditation. Here, falling on his knees, he redoubled his self-reproaches, and shed tears in such abundance that they fell in streams to the ground. Suddenly his divine Master, in a glow of beauty and majesty, stood before the penitent apostle, and greeted him kindly, saying: " Be of good heart, My son. Thy sins are forgiven thee." He then presented to Peter the marks of His wounds to kiss, and bade him be comforted.

On the morning of Easter Jesus appeared to the penitent Magdalen; about noon, to the penitent Peter; and in the evening He instituted the Sacrament of Penance, during the apparition described in the gospel as follows: " Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them : Peace be to you. And when He said this, He showed them His hands, and His side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you. When He had said this He breathed on them, and He said to them : Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." (John xx. 19-23.)

By virtue of these highly important and expressive words, Jesus solemnly and formally conferred upon the apostles and their successors the divine right of remitting sins. The Church has always firmly held and plainly taught this divine commission, that is, the priestly plenitude of power to forgive sins, as may be proved from the writings of the Fathers. If we ask, why our blessed Saviour was pleased to employ human agents in the re-mission of sins, especially as it lay in His power to cleanse the repentant sinner from offences directly and by a purely spiritual and interior process, the Fathers of the Church give two reasons: namely, the wholesome humiliation of the sinner, and his peace of mind. For from the fact of the sinner being required to approach with his burden of crime the apostles and their successors, to beg from them the remission of his sins, he must necessarily be much humbled. Now there is no other road to a reinstatement of grace, and to a restoration to our rights as children of God, but the road of self-abasement. Hence St. Augustine writes: "God exacts an acknowledgment of our sins, and delivers the confessing penitent from his sins because he humbles himself; on the con. trary, He rejects him who will not acknowledge his sins, for he is proud.

Secondly. It contributes much to the tranquillity of the sinner, and to his certainty of pardon and reconciliation with God, if he receives the sentence of absolution from a man divinely endowed with plenitude of power, and whom he can see and hear. Certainly, the acknowledgment of all and every sin, which must necessarily precede the priestly absolution, must be a great humiliation for the sinner; but he knows that Christ has so ordained, and ordained for his good, and this thought satisfies him.

Christ conferred upon the apostles the twofold power of loosing and binding. Who are those that may be loosed by them, and who those who are kept bound' This can be known to the priest only through the self accusation, or confession, of the penitent. Hence it is clear that Christ the Lord desired and ordered this confession. St. Augustine gives a beautiful admonition on this point: "Let no man say to himself, nor to others: 'I do penance before God alone, for He knows and sees what penance I have in my heart.' For then the words of Christ would have been uttered in vain : ` Whatsoever you loose upon earth will be loosed in heaven.' In vain would the keys of the kingdom of heaven have been en-trusted to the keeping of the Church."

At the time when our blessed Lord conferred upon the apostles the fulness of power to forgive sins, one of them was absent. Hence it is the opinion of the holy Fathers that Jesus must afterward have bestowed it upon them singly and individually. This absent apostle was Thomas. " Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them : Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." (John xx. 24, 25.) This was certainly very exacting on the part of Thomas; but it was permitted, that through him the doubters in all ages might be convinced. For: "After eight days, again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. Then He saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see My hands, and bring hither thy hand, and put it into My side : and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered and said to Him My Lord and my God! Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed." (John xx. 26-29.)

Christ hesitates not, on this occasion, to permit His apostle to touch His person, thereby to afford him the evidence he so peremptorily required. The gospel does not inform us whether Thomas made use or not of the privilege which Jesus so graciously allowed him. But whether he did or not, his doubts were immediately dispelled; and suddenly moved by the impulse of grace, he exclaimed : " My Lord and my God !" However perfect the faith of the apostle now was, it had one defect, be-cause it depended too much on the evidence of the senses. For which reason Our Lord gently reproves Thomas, saying: "Blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed." This is the faith that should animate us. From the doubting apostle's incredulity Christ mercifully drew the strongest evidence of His resurrection for the confirmation of our faith beyond all cavil or contradiction. Hence St. Gregory the Great says: "By this doubting of Thomas we are more confirmed in our belief than by the faith of the other apostles."

"After this Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias. And He showed Himself after this manner: There were together Simon Peter and Thomas who is called Didymus; and Nathanael who was of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of His disciples. Simon Peter saith to them: I go a-fishing. They say to him : We also will come with thee. And they went forth and entered into the ship: and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was come, Jesus stood on the shore : yet the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus therefore said to them: Children, have you any meat? They answered Him: No. He saith to them: Cast the net on the right hand of the ship, and you shall find. They cast there-fore: and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter: It is the Lord. Simon Peter, when he heard that it was the Lord, girt his coat about him (for he was naked) and cast himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the ship (for they were not far from the land, but as it were two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fishes. As soon, then, as they came to land, they saw hot coals lying, and a fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus said to them Bring hither of the fishes which you have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to the land, full of great fishes, one hundred and fifty-three. And although there were so many, the net was not broken. Jesus saith to them : Come and dine. And none of them who were at meat durst ask Him: Who art Thou? knowing that it was the Lord. And Jesus cometh and taketh bread and gives them, and fish in like manner. This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to His disciples after He was risen from the dead." (John xxi.

This apparition of Christ is specially important, for it was on this occasion that the primacy of St. Peter, or his office as visible head of the Church, was formally established.

" When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon, sin of John, lovest thou Me more than these? He saith to Him: Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith to him : Feed My lambs. He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me? He saith to Him: Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith to him: Feed My lambs. He said to him the third time : Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time, Lovest thou Me? And he said to Him: Lord, Thou knowest all things: Thou knowest that I love Thee. He said to him: Feed My sheep." (John xxi. 15-17.)

Why does our blessed Redeemer exact from St. Peter this thrice-repeated and solemn avowal of his love for his Master? He is about to entrust to Peter's care His flock, both lambs and sheep, laity and clergy. To feed, in the language of Holy Scripture, is to guide, rule, and govern, as St. Ambrose observes; and to feed the lambs and the sheep of Christ is undoubtedly to have the supreme spiritual power of governing and directing the whole flock of Christ in all matters belonging to faith and morals. Three times had St. Peter denied his Lord: the triple denial is now atoned for by a thrice-repeated act of love, a threefold avowal of future fidelity. At the same time Jesus tells him to feed His flock in three different ways: namely as teacher of truth, as high-priest of grace and mercy, and as king, through precept and wise regulations.

The gospels mention but two appearances of Our Saviour in Galilee after His resurrection. Of the first, which took place on the shore of the sea of Galilee, or Tiberias, we have just heard. The second is described by St. Matthew (xxviii. 16, 17) as follows: "The eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And seeing Him they adored: but some doubted." According to the statement made by St. Paul (1 Cor. xv. 6), "He was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whom many remain until the present, and some are asleep" Those that doubted, as the evangelist mentions, were among these five hundred.

St. John concludes his gospel with the words: "There are many other things which Jesus did: which if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written." (John xxi. 25.) Here we have an argument in favor of tradition: a plain assertion that the Scriptures cannot be the sole rule of faith. Hence, while we know that all Catholic teaching is founded on the word of God, yet we ought not to expect to find everything in the Bible.

O my God! I firmly believe whatever Thy holy Church teaches. I know for certain that Thou hast revealed it, because the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church was instituted by Thy divine Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the purpose of teaching it to me, and therefore, guided by the infallible successor of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles and visible head of the Church, cannot err in matters of faith and morals. I beseech Thee through the precious blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and through the merits of the apostles, to confirm me and all men in this faith, for which I profess to be ready, with Thy grace, to shed my blood.

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