There stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. (John 1:5)
There are a number of accounts of resurrection appearances in the Gospels, and in quite a few of them it seems the disciples do not immediately recognise Jesus. Mary Magdalen does not at first recognise the risen Jesus in the Garden. Neither do the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Nor do the apostles here. They see a figure, but not the Man.
But then they do see him. And in each case it is his actions which reveal him. For the Magdalen it is his word of tenderness. For the disciples on the road to Emmaus it is the breaking of bread. Today it is in the great haul of fish.
Nowhere in the Gospels do we have a description of the Jesus’ appearance - short or tall, scrawny or muscular, plain or striking, we are never told. We can surmise that he was certainly not blond haired, white skinned, nor blue eyed (despite what we have often been shown), but we cannot be sure even of this. We are never told. But we do hear time and time again about his words. And about his actions. His works of Mercy.
Our age, our society is obsessed by appearance - but Christ is made known not by how he looks, but by what he does. He heals the sick, cures the lame, feeds the needy, and shows compassion to sinners.
And these actions always create a response - the act offered in return. Mary Magdalen and the disciples in Emmaus rush to spread the news. Peter leaps into the water. And we make Christ known, we make Christ present, by doing what he did: celebrating the sacraments, certainly, but even more by caring, loving, sharing. By assisting those who hunger and thirst, or are in acute need, by welcoming the stranger, by visiting the sick, by supporting those in trouble.
Like the disciples, we may struggle sometimes to see Christ, grapple with faith, and are anxious over unanswered prayers - but when we get on with it, when we practice the Works of Mercy, then Christ himself is visible amongst us.
Pictured below are the volunteers for Compassion Kitchen
at Sacred Heart, Hanley on Easter Day 2016.