The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 26, 2009 - Third Sunday of Easter, Year B—2003

basing on the homily of Father Alex McAllister SDS

Three sentences in today’s readings attracted my attention:


When Peter says in the Act of the Apostles:


The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, Whom you handed over and denied in Pilate's presence when he had decided to release Him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised Him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away (Acts 3; 13-14)


I see in this statement that Peter understood perfectly the lesson given by Christ in today’s Gospel:


It is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luc 24, 47-48)


It can’t have been very easy for the disciples after the resurrection. They must have been very confused. It is one thing to talk about the resurrection in theory, but to actually experience someone rising from the dead must have been very bewildering. However, Jesus appears to them in different situations and explains what has happened in very simple terms, just as he does in today’s passage from St Luke’s Gospel.


The disciples are undergoing a learning process. And in any learning process confusion is an essential element.


Just look at how any small child learns something new. The child performs all kinds of experiments and is often very confused until, after repeated attempts and explanations by the parent, it all suddenly dawns on the child who in a moment of insight suddenly makes complete sense of the task at hand.


Actually, as we grow older we learn less and less. Sadly we lose the skills of learning and we often avoid situations where we might be on unfamiliar territory. We are afraid. We frequently chose to avoid learning something new, because it might be dangerous for us and for our convictions, for our habits and our style of life. By doing this we can close off whole areas of new experiences.


But Peter is learning and his lessons are going further and further until the final lesson on the cross, where he gave the ultimate testimony to his Master and Redeemer. We can also learn, but we have to be open to Christ’s teaching, even if it is difficult and if it demands a lot.


At Emmaus Jesus gave his Body and Blood as he celebrated the Eucharist. There the disciples encountered the Risen Christ: "they had come to know Jesus in the breaking of bread." (Lk 24, 25) "The Breaking of the bread" is an ancient name for the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass and recorded in Scripture. Each of us relives the wonder and awe of Emmaus at every Mass. We "know Jesus the Lord" in the most perfect way outside of heaven itself as the priest, acting in the person of Christ, offers the Mass. Earth and heaven come together in Jesus the God-Man as he appears before us on the altar of sacrifice.  Thus, the place in which this event takes place becomes “house of God and gate of heaven”.


What we can learn from this lesson if we are seldom present?


The disciples were just like us, they were slow learners, and they found Jesus’ new ideas difficult to cope with—even while he was still with them. But then they went through the awful circumstances of his death and must have been cast into in the depths of depression. And as part of the shock of all this I’m sure everything that he ever taught them went right out of their heads.


We too are slow learners. Actually, many of us are Catholics out of habit rather than out of conviction. We come to mass, we say our prayers, we act in a moral way and we do our best to pass these values on to our children. But we go no further.


Yet the final words of Jesus in today’s Gospel are intended for us just as much as they were intended for the disciples: You are witnesses to this.


Each one of us has to make the transition from being what you might call a passive Catholic to becoming an active Catholic. We have to move beyond habit and become witnesses.


The witness has seen and heard and experienced the events to which he gives testimony. The witness speaks with authority and he speaks the truth. And as a result the witness is believable—that’s surely why the apostles were so effective on the Day of Pentecost.


We might be slow learners but what we have to do is simply realise that God has chosen us for this particular task—to be his witnesses. Then we have to give testimony.


And here we have the third passage from today’s readings, from Saint John:


The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Those who say, "I know him," but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.” (1 Jn 2:4-5)


And you might say: What do I know? How can I give witness? I know nothing? But you would be wrong. You know a great deal. You know about Jesus. You know His life story. And more importantly, you know that He died and rose again. And you know why He did this: In order to free us from our sins and open up for us the way to everlasting life. He did it out of love. And you know what we must do. We must love one another and we must stop sinning so that, in the words of St John, God’s love comes to perfection in us.


These things are not complicated; we know them already. The lesson has been learned and we are no longer confused. Now we understand that we really are his witnesses and that our task is to bring Christ’s message to all we meet. But this does not mean that we have to go round knocking on doors or standing on the street corner blasting the Gospel at those who pass by. I don’t think so.


St Francis of Assisi had it right when he said: Preach the gospel all the time; use words only if necessary.

No comments: