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To Share Our Easter Celebration

Now that we are a few weeks into the Easter season we are continuing to hear of the encounters of the disciples with the Risen Lord.  These encounters that we read in the Gospels on the Sundays following Easter show us so strongly that we can’t just be a casual participant in the worship of our Lord because when we are we will miss so very much.  Like most clergy, it is always so wonderful for me to see so many who come to the celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday.  But in the same way I am disappointed when the same number are not present on the following Sunday.  I am disappointed because if we only hear the Gospel on Easter Sunday, we are left with the last line from the Gospel reading from Saint John on that day.  After having heard the powerful confession of John who “saw and believed” (John 20:8b) we are left with the confusing: “Remember, as yet they did not understand the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

So that we can go on and begin to “understand” this fact of the Resurrection we must continue to encounter the Risen Christ, just as the disciples did.  We must encounter Christ in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in hearing His word and receiving His Body and Blood.

On the second Sunday of Easter we hear of the encounter of our Lord Jesus with the apostles on that same night of the Resurrection and also with Thomas on the following week after his unbelief.  We see Jesus offering Thomas a chance to see and touch the wounds in His hands and in His side.  In response Thomas proclaims Jesus as “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)  This powerful confession makes me wonder if instead of calling Thomas ‘doubting’ it might be better to refer to him as ‘confessing Thomas.’  But within this encounter we also put ourselves into this story as well.  Jesus tells Thomas, “You became a believer because you saw Me.  Blest are they who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29)  In reflecting on this Gospel reading we see that Jesus is speaking about us and to us, those who have heard the message of the Risen Christ through the ministry of the Church He founded.

In the Gospel reading on this most recent third Sunday of Easter we hear of the encounter of the Risen Christ with the disciples after meeting the two on the road to Emmaus.  Jesus knew that they still had some doubts, so He said to them, “Look at My hands and My feet; it is really I.  Touch Me and see that a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I do.” (Luke 24:39)  And once again Jesus says to the disciples another phrase which is spoken about us and to us.  “Recall those words I spoke to you when I was still with you: everything written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms had to be fulfilled.”  Then He opened their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45)  As we have been active participants within the worship life of the Church we too have heard and are reminded of the words spoken by Jesus.  We have encountered the writings of the Law, the prophets and the psalms and have walked with Jesus in their fulfillment.  And it is through all of this, hearing the readings, having them explained and expounded in homilies and participating in worship, that the understanding of all these Scriptures has been opened to us.

So we know that the first measure of sharing that must occur is that the Church desires to share the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with each and every one of us.  Each of us is to be a full participant in the worship of Almighty God at Mass, but this is not the end.  We need to look deeper into the encounters with the Risen Jesus to realize there is also another sharing that takes place.  Again, if we look to the Holy Gospels that are read in these first few weeks of the Easter season, we notice another important sharing aspect.  In the Gospel of Easter Sunday we see that, after Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and noticed it empty, “She ran off to Simon Peter and the other disciple.” (John 20:2a)  Mary ran to share the message of an empty tomb, even though at this point she did not understand why it was empty.

In the second Sunday Gospel, after the disciples encounter the Risen Lord on the evening of the resurrection, they shared the message with Thomas, who was not present.  They kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” (John 20:25)  Thomas, of course, would not come to believe until again the Lord appeared to him and all of the other disciples.  While Thomas may have needed something a little more, it was the message and sharing of the other disciples that brought him to that point where he encountered Christ and then believed.  The third encounter on this past Sunday only occurs after the two disciples shared their encounter with Christ while traveling.  The Gospel begins, “The disciples recounted what had happened on the road to Emmaus and how they came to know Jesus in the breaking of bread.” (Luke 24:35)  Again one encounter with the Risen Christ leads the apostles to another one.

This pattern should certainly say something to us today.  Our encounters with the Risen Jesus must be shared so that they will then lead to others coming to know and encounter Jesus.  This is an important message for us as we are honoring in 2018 the Year of the Family.  There is no more appropriate place for us to share the good things that are happening within our Christian life than with our family; be it our immediate family or other close members of our wider Christian family.  The family can be the place where we can share the message that we received from the readings and homily at Holy Mass.  It is the place where we can share what the message means to us and how it spurs us on to continue to witness to Jesus in the ways we act, think and speak.  It is with family that we can gather for prayer to be in ever closer contact with Jesus.  And of course we can then also encourage each other to continue to encounter the Risen Christ, in prayer and especially in our participation during the Holy Eucharist and other liturgical celebrations.  In this way our Lord will not be someone that we only have a short encounter with and only know in some detached way, but rather the Risen Jesus will be someone that we know in the closest of ways because He is with us constantly.

But this does take work.  It is not something that can be done in only a passive way.  If we are to live this faithfully, we must consider what it means to be a witness.  It is this work of continuing to witness to Jesus Christ to others that will allow us to continue to encounter Him and also allow Him to encounter others who hear our words and see our believing life.  It is the work of building up the kingdom of God on earth, the kingdom that we are destined to be a part of, because we know Jesus.  Christ Himself tells us at the end of the Gospel on this past Third Sunday of Easter: “Thus it is likewise written that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.  In His name, penance for the remission of sins is to be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of this.” (Luke 24:46-48)

We have participated in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus as we walked the way of our Lord during Holy Week and Easter.  During this Easter season we are filled with joy knowing that because Jesus lives and has conquered death that sins and all things evil have been defeated.  And in knowing and believing this we are able to participate in the forgiveness of sins that Jesus accomplished.  And now we share the message.  Jesus tells us as He told the disciples, “You are witnesses of this.” (Luke 24:48)  We are witnesses by living it fully and truly participating in the worship of Almighty God Who accomplished all of this in Christ.  We are witnesses by sharing the message, in thought, word and deed, that Christ lives today.

 

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