3rd Sunday of Easter – 23/4/23
The question I have for all us of today is this – how are you and I being witnesses to the resurrected Christ? Peter gives us a great witness in our first reading today. After imprisonment, flogging, conspiring to stone anyone who called themselves Christian – Peter stands before Israel and declares to them that in their insecurity, their fear, their jealousy – they had Jesus crucified. Jesus lived in a certain time in history, amongst a certain culture. He was a Jewish man who grew up observing the mosaic law. Later in life he would proclaim that he was the fulfilment of the law and that nobody would get to the Father except through him.
The message that Jesus Christ gives us needs to be proclaimed by our manner of lives – to our family and friends. How many of us shy away from this message due to fear of persecution, or being called judgemental? The response is always the same – we are misunderstood, we are called bigots, we are called judgemental. The early Christians didn’t care about name calling – rather they considered it a blessing to be persecuted for the name of Jesus. As a matter of fact, Jesus says you are blessed when you are persecuted for his name.
The question to most people is why bother when our family and friends are perfectly happy living their own lives, paving their own paths, finding themselves in all sorts of other different philosophies in life? The answer is because Jesus died for not only you and I that we might believe in him, but also those who do not believe in him or have fallen away from him. That is why Peter proclaims the name Jesus Christ to all the Jewish people – this isn’t rude or arrogant, it is an act of love. This very act of love is what we are called to do each and every day by virtue of our baptism. This is why on Good Friday – the church solemnly intercedes for the Church, and those who do not believe in him, YES including the Jewish people.
This prayer is a beautiful one and expresses the Church’s desire that all come into a loving relationship with Christ. It reads – “Let us pray for the Jewish people, to whom the Lord our God spoke first that he may grant them to advance in love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. Almighty ever living God, who bestowed your promises on Abraham and his descendants, graciously hear the prayers of your Church, that the people you first made your own may attain the fullness of redemption.” I pray that prayer today so that it may be a reminder of the zeal Peter showed to the early Jewish communities, so that it may be a reminder of the men and women who have gone before us proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ as saviour of the world. They shed their blood for his name, so that you and I could live and practice faithfully in the Church Jesus began – the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
So now the question becomes, what is the benefit of all of this? The answer is in todays gospel – in a very simple yet easily overseen detail – after their encounter with the risen Jesus the two disciples say “did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explain the scriptures to us?” This is what happens when you come into a relationship with Christ – your heart burns with desire to know more, to love more, to forgive more, to grow in relationship with Jesus. This process of growing is only made possible by the openness of your heart and confidence in the risen Christ. It is why we need to be ambassadors for Christ in our families, our friendship circles, our schools, universities, workplaces. Everything these days is allowed to be promoted – sexual deviancy, assisted suicide, rights that oppress and kill the innocent – but when it comes to Christianity we must be quiet, we must retreat into our own communities. Where has that gotten us – it has become even worse because now in our own communities we cant talk about authentic catholic teaching or what our mission is – to evangelise the world – to save souls and remind people that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
I pray that through this good news of the resurrection you and I might rediscover this zeal and passion for the Lord our God, that we might lovingly and compassionately be effective evangelisers in the world – starting in our own homes. If you don’t know where to begin, it always starts with the man/woman in the mirror. Remember, a lot of struggles in life become bearable with Jesus in our lives, and we should be consoled by the resurrection knowing that whatever we are going through it is always temporary.