by Dom Prosper Gueranger 1870
The day is fast advancing, and Jesus has not yet shown Himself to His Disciples. The holy women are overpowered with joy and gratitude at the favour they have received. They have told it to the Apostles, assuring them that not only have they seen Angels, but Jesus Himself; that He has spoken to them; that they have kissed His sacred feet. But all their assurances fail to convince these men, who are oppressed with what they have seen of their Master’s Passion. They are cruelly disappointed, and their disappointment makes them deaf to everything, that speaks of consolation. And yet, we shall soon find them laying down their very lives in testimony of the Resurrection of that Master, Whose name and remembrance is now a humiliation to them.
We may form some idea of their feelings, from the conversation of two who have been spending a part of the day with them, and who themselves were Disciples of Jesus. This very evening, whilst returning to Emmaus, they thus express their disappointment: We hoped that Jesus would have redeemed Israel: and now besides all this, today 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 so as the Women had said; but Him they found not (St. Luke, xxiv. 21-24). How strange, that the Resurrection of which Jesus had so often spoken to them, even in the presence of the Jews, does not recur to their minds! They were still carnal-minded men, and the awful fact of His Death stifles within them every idea of that new birth, which our Bodies are to receive in the tomb.
But our Risen Jesus must now show Himself to these men, who are to preach His Divinity to the furthest ends of the world. So far, His manifestations have been made to satisfy His affection for his Blessed Mother, and his infinite love for those souls, that had done all in their power to testify their gratitude towards Him. It is now time for Him to provide for His own glory: at least, so it would seem to us. But no; having rewarded those that love Him, He would now show the generosity of His Heart; and then, after this, proclaim His triumph. The Apostolic College, of which every member fled at the hour of danger, has seen its very head so forgetful of his duty as to deny his Divine Master. But, from the moment when Jesus cast upon his Disciples a look of reproach and pardon, Peter has done nothing but shed bitter tears over his fall. Jesus would now console the humble penitent; tell him, with his own lips, that He has pardoned Him; and confirm, by this mark of His divine predilection, the sublime prerogatives that He so recently conferred upon him, in the presence of all the other Apostles. As yet, Peter doubts of the Resurrection; Magdalene’s testimony has not convinced him: but now, that his offended Master is about to appear to him, his Faith will acknowledge the grand mystery.
We have already heard the Angel sending Jesus’ message by the three Women: Go, said he, tell his Disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee (St. Mark, xvi. 7). Why this express mention of Peter, but that he may know, that although he has denied Jesus, Jesus has not denied him? Why is he not, on this occasion, mentioned before the others, except to spare him the humiliation of the contrast between his high position and the unworthy conduct he has shown? But this special mention of his name tells him that he is still dear to Jesus, and that he will soon have an opportunity of expiating his sin, by expressing his regret and repentance at the very feet of his ever-loving, and now glorified, Master. Yes, Peter is tardy in believing; but his conversion is sincere, and Jesus would reward it.
Suddenly, then, in the course of this afternoon, the Apostle sees standing before him that Divine Master, Whom, three days previously, he had beheld bound and led away by the servants of Caiphas. This Jesus is now resplendent with light; he is the Conqueror, the glorious Messias: and yet, what most affects the Apostle, is the ineffable goodness of this his Lord, Who comes to console him, rather than to show him the splendours of His Resurrection. Who could describe the interview between the Penitent and his offended Master; the sorrow of Peter, now that he finds himself treated with such generosity; the loving pardon which comes from Jesus’ lips, and fills the Apostle’s heart with paschal joy? Blessed be Thy name, O Jesus! Who thus raisest up, from his fall, him whom thou art to leave us for our Chief Pastor and Father, when thou ascendest into heaven!
It is, indeed, just that we adore the infinite mercy which dwells in the Heart of our Risen Jesus, and which He shows with the same profusion and power, as during His mortal life: but let us, also, admire how, by this visit, He continues, in St. Peter, the mystery of the Unity of the Church, a mystery which is to be perpetuated in this Apostle and his successors. At the Last Supper, Jesus spoke these words to him, in the presence of the other Apostles: I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren (St. Luke, xxii. 32). The time is now come for establishing Peter in this Faith, which is never to fail: Jesus gives it to him. He Himself instructs Peter; He makes him the foundation of His Church. In a few hours hence, He will manifest himself to the other Apostles; but Peter will be present with his Brethren. Thus, if Peter receive favours not granted to the rest, they never receive any but he has a share in them. It is their duty to believe on Peter’s word; they do so. On Peter’s testimony, they believe in the Resurrection, and proclaim it to others, as we shall soon see. Jesus is to appear likewise to them, for He loves them; He calls them His Brethren; He has chosen them to be the preachers of His name throughout the world: but He will find them already instructed in the faith of His Resurrection, because they have believed Peter’s testimony; and Peter’s testimony has effected in them the mystery of that Unity, which he will effect in the Church to the end of time.
Jesus’ apparition to the Prince of the Apostles rests on the authority of St. Luke’s Gospel (St. Luke, xxiv. 34) and St. Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians (I. Cor. xv. 5). It is the fourth of those that took place on the day of the Resurrection.