|SUNDAY HOMILIES FOR YEAR B|
|By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp|
|Homily for 3rd Sunday of Easter - on the Gospel|
Sharing the Faith
|Acts 3:13-15, 17-19||1 John 2:1-5||Luke 24:35-48|
If the point of last Sunday's gospel was on experiencing the risen Lord, the point of today's gospel seems to be on sharing our faith with others. Christ wants his followers to be his witnesses. Witnessing, like a coin, has two sides. One side has to do with seeing an event, having knowledge of something through personal experience and not on hearsay. The other side has to do with being able to give an account of it before others. That we are called to be witnesses of Christ means that we are called first to have a personal experience of Christ and then to share this experience with others. Many Christians, unfortunately, only go halfway as they focus on knowing Christ more and more without a corresponding interest in sharing the knowledge. Yet, faith is like a flame: the more a piece of wood passes the flame to others the more brightly it burns, but if it refuses to pass on the flame, it stands in danger of losing even its own flame.
The grandfather of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber was lame. Once day they asked him to tell a story about his teacher, and he related how his master used to hop and dance while he prayed. The old man rose as he spoke and was so swept away by his story that he himself began to hop and dance to show how his master did it. From that moment he was cured of his lameness. When we tell the story of Christ, we achieve two things. We enable others to experience him and we ourselves experience his power even more. We can see that happening in today's gospel.
Two disciples met the risen Lord on the way to Emmaus. They came back to Jerusalem to share their experience with the apostles. We read that "While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you'" (Luke 24:36). Christ makes himself present in the process of sharing their faith experience with the other unbelieving disciples. Now the eleven apostles and their companions are in turn enabled to experience the risen Lord. And it takes no stretch of the imagination to see that for the two who shared their experience this would be a big strengthening of faith, a big empowerment.
What does Jesus do to those who experience him? First, he communicates peace to their troubled hearts. Then he tries to convince them that the same Jesus of Nazareth who suffered and died the shameful death on the cross is the very one who is now alive in glory with God. He goes as far as eating broiled fish which, of course, he does not need, in order to make the point. Then he opens their minds to understand the Scriptures and how they point to him. Finally he commissions them to be his witnesses. "You are witnesses of these things"(Luke 24:48). This is what Jesus did when he appeared in the gathering of the disciples that Sunday morning 2000 years ago. And this is what he does when he appears in the Sunday gathering of the faithful here today.
Notice how active Jesus is. He is the one who gives them his peace. He is the one who strengthens their faith and takes away their doubts. He is the one who opens their minds and explains the Scriptures to them. He is the one who declares them his witnesses. The disciples do not do much in the encounter except open their eyes to see him, their hearts to let in his peace, their minds to receive his instruction. And in the end when he says, "You are witnesses of these things," they would be expected to respond, "Yes, Lord," and then go out and try to be just that.
How do we witness to Christ? Here many wayside preachers get it wrong. It is not by threatening people with eternal hellfire. It is not by arguing with them on controversial theological issues. It is simply, as the two disciples on the way to Emmaus did, by telling the story of our personal encounter with Christ. It is sharing with them why we are Christians. As St Peter tells us, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).
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