Theological Reflection for 3rd Sunday of Easter (year B)
April 26, 2009
1st Reading: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 2nd Reading: 1 Jn 2:1-5a; Gospel: Luke 24:35-48
“You Are Witnesses of These Things” (Lk 24:48)
‘Witness’ is defined as, to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception. A witness, therefore, is someone who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced. In some serious cases the court requires some witnesses to testify or tell the story as it is. A witness always clarifies and helps the judge to make an adequate judgment about a cloudy situation. To be a ‘witness’ therefore is to accept a serious responsibility. In today’s gospel passage, we see the second part of the Emmaus account. The Emmaus account is the story of all those who meet Christ along the way and come to recognize Him. It shows the mysterious hidden-ness and presence of Jesus, which is very paramount to the gospel. Appearing to his disciples again Jesus gives them peace, he calms their fears, and clarifies their doubt (cf Lk 24:36-42). Finally, He opens their minds to understand the scriptures and sends them out to preach to all nations in his name. Giving them a serious responsibility the risen Lord declares; “You are witnesses of these things.” (Lk 24:48). What is the significance of this message? What challenge does it give us today?
The mysterious appearance of Jesus in the midst of His disciples shows a manifestation of some extraordinary power. Observably, the risen Lord is not constrained by time and space. He can appear anywhere, at anytime. The risen Jesus, however, cannot be confused with a ghost. In ancient belief, ghosts do appear in places but they can neither eat nor drink. Their actions also cannot have physical effect in the corporal world. The corporality of the risen Jesus as seen in today’s gospel passage shows that He is not a ghost. The resurrected (glorious) body is real, but uninhibited, by opaque bodies or things. Jesus eats fish and shows His hands and feet to prove to His disciples that He is not a ghost. He also allows them to touch him, “You are witnesses of these things” (Lk 24:48).
Although resurrection is a matter of faith and cannot be proved scientifically it was somehow necessary for the disciples to see, and experience the risen Jesus so that may be authentic witnesses of that reality-Resurrection. In Christianity, witnessing comes from the experience of conversion. Christianity is about a personal experience of Jesus. This personal experience of unfathomable love of Jesus is what we share with the whole world in our proclamations. The apostles preached passionately and testified to the people of their time that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures. Not even the threat of death was able to stop them. The apostles were arrested, jailed, and flogged several times but they were so convinced of their experience that they said to the Sanhedrin, “We would rather disobey you and die than disobey God by give up witnessing to the name of Jesus” (cf Acts 5:29).
Many of us did not see Jesus physically but (like Paul) we have encountered Him on many occasions. We continue to encounter him every day and everywhere. We meet Christ in prayers, in scripture, in the sacraments and, of course, we do encounter Him in one another. Although we might be experiencing difficulties of different kinds at this time, we should know that Jesus is always with us. The social, political, and economic problems, and the storms of secularism blowing against us today, are not enough reasons to stop us from witnessing the resurrection of Jesus. Through the sacraments we have been called, and empowered, to be witnesses and nothing can intimidate, or inhibit, us. In our moments of doubts and internal struggles, let us implore him to strengthen our faith.
Our daily tasks and struggles, sorrows and Joys are part of the witnessing we are talking about. Our Christian life is an ongoing witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The life, suffering, and death of Jesus are all together a package, and if we are witnesses of these we are not only doing that in words but also by our own lives. The Christian life can be summarized thus: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. You and I are witnesses of these things.
Fr. Clem Oyafemi