A Blessed Easter, everyone!
We are in the Easter Octave. We celebrated Easter two Sundays ago and we will continue celebrating the joy it brings until Pentecost on Sunday, 5 June.
During these days of Eastertide, we will read and reflect on the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts tell us about the lives of the early Christians. Filled by the spirit of the risen Jesus, they will grow in God’s ways and learn to live as God’s community rooted in Jesus’s teachings. In particular, we will hear about how Jesus’s spirit empowers them to go forth and proclaim Him as the Christ for all peoples.
These Christians experienced what the disciples also experienced that first Easter morning. Each who encountered the risen Jesus become His witnesses to many others. The women at the empty tomb ran to tell the disciples of the angels’ message that Jesus had risen. Mary Magdalene encountered the risen Jesus who commanded her to tell his disciples to his resurrection and coming ascension. Peter preached about the risen Jesus to Cornelius and his household. Peter and John raised a crippled man and showing forth the power of the risen Jesus drew more people them to Jesus.
Easter reminds us that we too are called to witness to the risen Jesus to everyone around us. This is our Christian mission as an Easter people.
Let us take some time to consider how the risen Jesus is calling us to witness to the power of the resurrection. This power to forgive and heal, to give life and restore, to overcome fear and encourage us to live in God’s ways as Jesus taught us. And yes, to become witnesses proclaiming Jesus’s love to all.
To help us do this, I invite you to read this homily that was shared at a recent Mass for the Courage community. Thereafter let us consider some points for our prayer and reflection.
(photo credit: shutterstock)
Year C / Easter / Thursday in the Octave of Easter
Readings: Acts 3:11-26 / Psalm 8:2ab+5, 6-7, 8-9 / Luke 24:35-48
“You are witnesses to this” (Luke 24.48)
Here is Jesus, risen and live, reminding the disciples of a privilege God gives them: they are witnessing his resurrection. They are experiencing the truth of what Jesus had been teaching them – that His love sacrifices, His mercy saves, and God gives life to the full.
Jesus enters into the locked room the disciples are hiding in. They, his closest friends, are terrified he is a ghost. Their fear turns to joy when they recognize Jesus alive, not dead. He has flesh and bones. He eats with them. He helps them understand what the Scriptures say of Him. He explains how he had to suffer, die and rise from the dead.
Because the disciples witness and hear him, they become convinced and convicted that He Himself is the Good News worth announcing and even to die for. Hence, their missionary work of preaching repentance and forgiveness of sin to all peoples. Peter and John do this in the first reading. They draw people closer to Jesus. They offer what they have – Jesus. Peter explains: “I have neither silver or gold but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarean rise and walk” (Acts 3.6).
Christians say we have Jesus with us, and we want to give Jesus to others. This is what Christian witnessing is about. Do we really do this? Or, we pick and choose what about Jesus and which of his teachings we want to witness to?
We must honestly answer these questions because Jesus’s gift is His life for us. “I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly” (John 10.10). Jesus himself repeatedly teaches us how to receive His Life – by repenting, converting and becoming convicted that He alone can give it. There is no other way.
We desire His life but we struggle to receive and live it. Fear is a reason we struggle. We fear living His Life because we think we can’t for we are sinners. We fear if we tried, we would fail repeatedly. Like the fear of the disciples, our fear leads us to lock ourselves up from God. Isn’t this the same fear that leads LGBT people to hide in the closet? To fear being turned away from Church? To fear having no place at the Lord’s table? To fear being denied salvation? To fear being unloved?
Jesus responds by coming to all who fear and offering peace. “Peace be with you.” This is how Jesus comes to the disciples who feared being rebuked and shamed for having abandoned him in his passion and death. This is how Jesus also comes into our ordinary lives, often weighed down by burdens and fraught with pains. And yes, Jesus always comes with peace into the lives of every LGBT man and woman. When one hides in closets, he enters to free. Where one is hated and hurt, he seeks out to comfort and heal. Where one is rejected and discriminated, he brings this beloved home, restores his dignity and celebrates her life.
All these ways describe the life-giving encounters everyone who meets the risen Jesus has in the post-resurrection stories. He comes to each who is afraid, confused and in pain so as to empower them to move onward suffused with His care, compassion, and love beyond all measure.
As we hear, pray and meditate on these stories, can we allow ourselves to feel, savour and even delight in how good each of these encounters must have been? Too often, we overthink and overimagine the resurrection stories with our heads. Can we simply do the same when Jesus encounters us in our daily lives?
To encounter someone implies a relationship with the other person that is special in its depth. The disciples knew Jesus. His coming after the resurrection deepens their relationship to an even more intimate level. They experience him as truly loving them in spite of their failure remain loyal and faithful during his passion and death. We have a relationship with Jesus. He comes to us even when we sin. Can we recognize Jesus inviting us to this deeper intimacy every time He forgives us?
To encounter someone then is a more profound experience than simply being physically next to him or with her, or even amidst others.
Look at the community of Courage gathered here every Thursday evening. We are not just physically present to one another. We interact with each other in prayer. We hear each other’s stories, the ups and downs, the graces and sins. We attend to each other’s burdens and accompany one another in our joys. We care for every one and we are concerned for each person’s wellbeing. In all we say and do in Courage, we express the same intimacy the risen Jesus shares with his disciples when he entered the locked room and said, “Peace be with you.” This is the intimacy of peace friends find in one another. The intimacy of trust in shared vulnerability. The intimacy of chaste, mutual love in caring for each other’s happiness and holiness. This is how Christians are meant to live – with the love of the risen Jesus.
If we can recognise that this is how our Courage community is – alive with the spirit of the risen Jesus – then we might begin to appreciate how the disciples’ encounter with the risen Jesus is filled with deep emotion and love given and received, mutually shared.
In a few moments Jesus will come to us in the Eucharist. He will give Himself. We will receive Him with an “Amen.” Amen to Him transforming us – rich or poor, healthy or sick, straight or LGBT – into His Body. Together, the Body of Christ to witness to everyone that His love saves, like the disciples did when He commissioned them to preach to the world.
This evening, Jesus is with our Courage community. He has come to us to remind us his Resurrection saves everyone, us too. Now He dares us to witness to God’s saving love all, especially those who discriminate. Shall we?
Prayer & Reflection
Having read the homily above, I’d like to invite you to a time of prayer and reflection. As you do, consider these 3 points about the invitation the risen Jesus makes to every Christian – to go and witness to the power of the resurrection.
- Look back over your Lenten efforts and your Easter celebrations. As Christians we believe Jesus’s Spirit accompanied us during these times. What positive changes do you now see in your life and faith journeys? Can you identify the ways you cooperated with Jesus to bring about these changes?
- As a person with same-sex attraction or who identifies as LGBT, or as a loved one of an LGBT person, how are you experiencing the risen Jesus in the daily experience of life – not just in the good and happy moments you are grateful for but also in the difficult, challenging, even sinful times when you feel burdened or ashamed? Is the risen Jesus challenging to witness by forgiving someone who had hurt you?
- The risen Jesus comes with peace for everyone who is afraid and confused, sad and pained in the post-resurrection stories. He knew they needed his peace most of all. As you look ahead to the coming weeks, what do you need to receive from Jesus? Ask Him for it. Speak to Jesus as you would a friend – heart to heart – about what you desire most from Him.
Pray the ‘Glory Be’ to end your conversation with Jesus.
Words to Encourage
Yes, let us live as an Easter people. Let our Hallelujahs be our song that witness to the risen Jesus – our Christ now and always.