Post-resurrection epiphanies: the elusive Christ

Rosy Kandathil, OSB A Benedictine Sojourner's Journey, Living in Community 4 Comments

tender green shoots in woodland floorThey tell me it’s spring here in Wisconsin, but I’m having trouble seeing it.

I am impatient for the riotous blooms of the season, trees full of swaying green leaves and sunshine, warm breezes carrying the sweet fragrance of life. You know, spring. Instead, I’m greeted in the mornings with a blast of frigid air as I make my way to the monastery, frost-covered grass crunching disconsolately beneath my feet. Sitting at my desk writing today, all I can see from my windows are bare brown branches stretching into the grey sky.  Blech.

When will spring be here?  Where is the new life I’ve been waiting for?

As I walk along the trails, I am intent on finding signs of the warmer season I have longed for since winter began its long siege. There are encouraging signs, if I look closely. Trees are putting forth tiny green buds and the birds are atwitter with good news. Lately, from between the litter of dead brown leaves, the budding heads of crocuses and daffodils have started to come up. I’ve taken to watching where I put my feet so that I don’t inadvertently crush the tender green life attempting to push through the dirt.

All this seems a fitting parallel to the post-resurrection stories of Jesus that we have been reading together at the monastery each day. After the harrowing Lenten weeks of hearing the prophets and Jesus himself warning of his imminent suffering and death, it was a cathartic relief when Holy Week finally came. But now, in the days after the resurrection, everything is topsy-turvy. Nothing seems right. I can’t trust my eyes or ears anymore.

The post-resurrection stories of Jesus are full of astonishing “now-you-see-him, now-you-don’t” acts that leave his disciples spluttering, bereft of rational explanation. There are at least three instances when Jesus appears in disguise or “different forms,” as Mark’s Gospel in uncharacteristically understated fashion puts it. Distraught and weeping at his grave, Mary mistakes Jesus for an anonymous gardener. On the way to Emmaus, two disciples are talking sadly about Jesus’ death, when a stranger appears alongside them walking in the same direction. They strike up a conversation together but the whole time they’re talking, they don’t realize it is Jesus who walks alongside them. And finally, on the shores of a beach after a frustrating night of luckless fishing, Peter and the other disciples encounter a mysterious stranger who cooks them breakfast over hot coals: Jesus, once again.

In each instance, Jesus is easy to miss. Gardener, fellow wayfarer, fisherman, cook: Jesus eludes our grasp. So why the mystery and disguise? Why is the post-resurrection Jesus so difficult to see by those who spent the most time with him and would know him best?

Perhaps because Jesus is teaching me something I would do well to remember. While I might measure new life by superlative moments of spring sunshine and riotous blooms, the risen Jesus appears disguised as my real life. He shows up in the most unexpected and elusive of ways: in the everyday and unromantic, in the common and easy to ignore. Here he is in the kitchen while I do the dishes; in the laundry as I fold clothes; in a conversation with a store clerk; in my daily walks on the trail; even, in my confusion, disorientation and fear. Rather than cling to the familiar or gaze longingly into the sky, I’d do well to keep my eyes open and pay attention to the risen life that comes in the strange, hidden surprises of the daily.


Follow this link to read Rosy’s earlier posts:  Living in Community – A Benedictine Sojourner’s Journey


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