3rd Sunday of Easter – 18 April 2021 – Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19; Responsorial: Psalm 4; II: I John 2: 1-5a; Gospel: Luke 24: 35-48
This third week of Easter is in rather sharp contrast to this week in our world. There has been another mass shooting. The Covid 19 pandemic continues to be a very real battle with efforts of medicine and practices of all those concerned with the health of others and themselves battling viral mutations and fears. And even in the church, where we should be celebrating the Presence of our Risen Lord, there are that intent on focusing and fueling divisions and strife. All these events to which we are witnesses would challenge and seemingly mock the power and promise of Jesus, risen from the dead. In many ways, the ways of the world and the powers of darkness seem as powerful as they were when Jesus suffered His passion and died on the cross. But as it was for the early Christians so it is for the faithful today. The reality of the cross will only become clearer as we seek our Lord and His return.
And the promise and power of Christ risen from the dead, the power of His resurrection, is even more relevant and real. And it is to these Truths that far surpass the news of the day, we are called to be witnesses.
Every believer, no matter their age or place in the Body of Christ is called to bear witness for Christ. It is an inherent part of our being that we ARE WITNESSES! We proclaim in our words and deeds our loves, our hates, our beliefs and our doubts. What, or more truthfully, whom does our witness proclaim? Is life all about…me, my accomplishments, my accumulations or perhaps if we have encountered sufferings is it about sharing a new “organ recital” as we testify to whatever ailment has beset us? Or are we, as created and redeemed by God proclaiming the truth of the cross and the power of the resurrection?
As we carefully listen to the Scripture for today we hear the clear call from God to proclaim His Presence in our lives, to bear witness of Jesus conquering sin and death. This resurrection witness is expressed in our actions and our words. St. Francis of Assisi told his brothers to “preach and if necessary, use words.” Our testimony, if real, will contain key essential elements of Christ in our life.
The message of LIFE: If we examine the actions and words of Jesus, before His Passion and even more so after His rising from the dead, we see a dynamic message of LIFE and life in abundance. He encounters us in our struggles, fears, and failings and seeks us to follow Him beyond our self to GROW in the holy joy of body soul, and spirit found in Him. This brings us to ask, what do we proclaim to others, or to ourselves? Is the message of encouragement, hope, growth, and maybe even change? Or is it a message of fear, suspicion, or worry? Is our favorite hymn of worry or wonder for beauty of God and Creation?
The Witness of Mercy and forgiveness: As Jesus encountered the disciples HE encountered lives locked in rooms of fear, hiding behind doubts and guilt. Jesus, then, and now, comes to us where we are. But He comes bringing hope and the holy joy of mercy. Christ knows and understands each of us. He knows, better than any other our flaws, wounds, our brokenness. And, as the refrain from the Responsorial proclaims, we call to our ” Lord, let your face shine on us.” As we are on this pilgrimage through these difficult times we need to take care that our words and our deeds share that message of mercy and forgiveness with others. It is important to note when Jesus encountered His struggling followers He did so, again, where they were. Change, repentance, conversion, yes it would occur as they followed and drew close to Him. But there would be times when forgiveness would be impossible without Him. But it must be a part of their on-growing witness.
The testimony of God’s peace and love: It is in the world of conflicts and strife, it is as we carry our crosses that we are called to grow in genuine holiness. That holiness, that sanctifying grace of God, is revealed perhaps most powerfully in the peace of God that surpasses all circumstance and understanding. It is validated, undeniably, in lives that allow their souls to see others as God does, with His love. Now lest anyone worry that I am speaking of a fuzzy, spineless emotion void of any character I am not. We are redeemed to see others beyond their failings and sins to the God-loved soul within. (Or simply to see others as God sees..each of us). We are to share, amidst the very real chaos of the world, the peace of He who reigns eternally in God’s Kingdom. And we are redeemed to share the healing blessing of God’s love with souls wounded by the false loves of the world and by the hates that those counterfeits will inflict.