Acts 3:12-15, 17-19, First John 2:1-5, Lk 24:35-48
(Because of Bishop’s Annual Appeal this weekend a few points from this homily will be share during the Mass)
Dear friend! It was his first Sunday in the parish, and the congregation was on full alert to form their own initial judgment of their new parish priest. His homily was excellent. This was a great relief to all. (His predecessor had been totally uninspiring.) The following Sunday the crowds had increased significantly, probably because the good news had gone around during the week. To the surprise of those who were there the previous Sunday, the priest proceeded to give the exact same sermon. They excused this, in the belief that there were so many new-comers this morning, that it was no harm that they should hear what he had to say. Which was all very well, until the next Sunday, the next Sunday, and indeed, the following Sunday, the very same sermon! This was carrying things a bit too far! Two or three of the parishioners decided to approach him as diplomatically as possible, to talk to him about how they felt about what was happening. They were extremely diplomatic. “That’s a very good sermon, father! We were just wondering, Father, if you realize that you have given the same sermon for the five past Sundays.” “Oh, yes, I know that” replied the priest. “Well Father, without wishing to be offensive, but do you have any other sermons?” Oh, of course, I have plenty of other sermons.” “Well father, you will be giving to one of your other sermons, won’t you? “Of course, I will.” replied the priest. “I promise you that I will move on to the next sermon as soon as I see you doing something about the first one!” Gospel today invites us to be a living witness to Jesus.
The disciples must have been very much confused, when they heard from the women, and the disciples from Emmaus said, that they met the Risen Lord. Jesus is not dead but alive. 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. The disciples were undergoing a learning process. And in any learning process confusion is an essential element. They were slow learners, and 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 the depth of depression.
After the resurrection, for Jesus then to keep popping up here and there must have been extraordinarily confusing at first. He didn’t appear in his risen body and stay with them and allow them to get used to the fact. No, he appeared here and there and then eight days later somewhere else. And these appearances were very brief; there was no time to come to terms with what was happening. But each time Jesus explained things to them in very simple terms just as he did in today’s gospel: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled”. In this way Jesus led them by the hand through the confusing stages of this great learning process. And on the day of Pentecost the disciples rushed out into the street explaining to everyone else what had happened. And as witnesses they had remarkable success.
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, and we act in a moral way and nothing more than that. 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 of these things.” We have to make the transition from being what we call a passive Catholic to becoming an active Catholic. We have to move beyond habits and become witnesses.
We might be slow learners but there is not complication. What we have to do is simply realize that God has chosen us for this particular task – to be his witnesses. 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. 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 of everlasting life. He did it out of love.
And you know what we must do. We must love one another and 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 message to all we meet. But this does not mean that we have to go around knocking on doors or standing on the street corner blasting the gospel at those who pass by. St. Francis of Assisi had it right when he said: “preach the gospel all the times; use words only if necessary”.