April 14, 2024

Dear friends in Christ,

As we gather this third Sunday of Easter, I am reminded of a true story from Ripley’s Believe It or Not about a judge in Yugoslavia who was pronounced dead after an unfortunate accident, only to wake up in a funeral home! Imagine the shock of his wife, neighbors, and the night watchman when he began making calls or showing up at their doors, very much alive. This bizarre yet humorous tale echoes today’s Gospel reading from Luke 24:35-48, where Jesus, too, had to convince His disciples He was not a ghost but alive, resurrected in His glorified body.

This past week, I had an enriching experience that mirrored the challenge of belief and witness to the Resurrection of Jesus. I rode in a Lyft taxi, driven by a young, inquisitive Muslim. Our conversation veered into a deep discussion about faith, specifically about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He questioned how Christians could be so certain that Christ indeed rose from the dead and that it wasn’t merely someone’s imagination. I shared with him that while there is a lot of compelling empirical evidence pointing towards the Resurrection, such as the famous Shroud of Turin, the Relics of the Passion, and historical accounts outside the Bible about the early Church’s transformation by their belief in Christ being alive, the heart of this belief is still a matter of faith that transcends scientific evidence.

The Apostles themselves gave the most potent witness to the Resurrection, even unto death. They could not have willingly faced martyrdom for a mere idea or hallucination but did so for a real, living Person whom they experienced as being alive. Although I am not sure if our animated discussion turned my driver into a believer, it was gratifying to share with him what I believe, bringing him closer to understanding the Christian perspective.

Today’s Gospel profoundly illustrates the reality of Christ’s Resurrection. By inviting His apostles to look closely at Him, touch Him, and observe Him eating, the risen Jesus dispelled any notion that they were witnessing a ghost. He demonstrated that He was as real and alive. This authentic encounter is what transformed the apostles into fervent witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection. Their faith was deeply rooted in the personal and communal experience of Jesus as the living Lord.

This brings us to the crux of today’s Gospel message and our own lives as followers of Christ. Today, the risen Jesus still invites us to a personal and communal encounter with Him, especially in the Holy Eucharist, which is not merely an abstract idea or tradition but a vibrant, transformative experience of His living presence.

Just as the Yugoslavian judge’s return to life was met with disbelief, so too we must bridge the gap of skepticism with the truth and vitality of Jesus Christ. Our strongest testimony is not found in words alone but in the transformative power of our encounters with the Risen Lord. When the joy, love, and peace of Christ are evident in our lives, even the most skeptical can become curious about the source of our hope.

Let us, therefore, renew our commitment to embody and share the joy of the living Christ. As Easter people, may our lives reflect the hope and renewal found in Christ’s Resurrection.

Peace and blessings,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham