3rd Sunday of Easter
Gospel of St Luke 24:35-48
The other evening my wife and I were walking to our car after having spent a very pleasant couple of hours at the movie theatre. I was commenting on how pleasantly surprised I was by the fact that the movie had turned out NOT to be a “scary” movie; because I really dislike scary movies. In a rare moment of agreement, at least as far as movies are concerned, my wife also commented on how much she enjoyed the movie, even though it was NOT a “scary” movie; because my wife, on the other hand, really loves scary movies. Overall our time together that evening was enjoyable and pleasant and full of peace… and then I got into the car.
As we were backing out of the parking space, I had to suddenly bring the vehicle to an abrupt halt as a group of young adults were standing directly behind our car taking selfies with their phones. They appeared to not at all be interested in getting out of the way, and it wasn’t because they were ignorant of my car or the fact that I was trying to back out. So, there they stood, and there I sat.
I sat there and stared at them through my rear-view mirror, and I could see out of the corner of my eye that my wife was staring at me, waiting. Waiting to see if the old-man curmudgeon, which, on more than one occasion I have been not so subtly accused of desiring to become, would reveal himself and impress upon this obtrusive group of young people to take their picture taking, duck-face making, conglomeration somewhere else other than directly behind my car. I stared at them. My wife stared at me; and nobody said anything.
Eventually, the group of young adults moved on and I was able to put the car into gear and safely exit the parking lot. It wasn’t until we were on 17th street, headed for home, when my wife, with a sly grin and a twinkle in her eye said, “You really wanted to get out of the car back there, didn’t you.” I paused, considered my response carefully and said, “Yeah…now that I am a Deacon I guess I can’t do that anymore.” She agreed, and we both laughed; however, one louder than the other.
Now, believe it or not, the story I just shared with you has relevance to today’s Gospel and I ask for your patience and attention as I attempt to make a point about a group of selfie-taking young adults and an aspiring curmudgeon.
In today’s Gospel, Luke describes Jesus’s appearance to his disciples in the upper room. We read that Jesus suddenly appeared and was welcomed with shock, dismay, and disbelief. He extended to them his peace; he revealed himself to them through his scars; and then he proved to them his corporality by consuming baked fish. He opened their minds to the Scriptures, and when they began to understand and believe, he reminded them of who they were, stating, “You are witnesses of these things.”
Let us take a moment and examine this word “witness”. It carries with it a greater meaning than just an observer of events, it also implies testimony. This Greek word (pronounced martus) translated to the English word “witness” is also the same word from which is derived the English word “martyr”.
This same word is also found in today’s first reading, in the Acts of the Apostles, when Peter proclaims, “God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” It is here where we find Peter possessing the title and the mission of Jesus’s call to be a witness. It is here where Peter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaims the Gospel, and calls upon those who hear his voice to “repent and be converted.” It is here, as well other place in the Gospel’s, where we find the Apostolic church both in office and in action. In her office, in the witness of the Apostles as it has been handed down through their successors; and in her mission of being “sent out” to proclaim the Good News.
We are a church that not only has preserved the office of the Apostles, but we are also a church that continues to carry out their mission. The mission of going out “to all the nations” sharing the message of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.
Now, this essential truth is absolutely important to understand in regard to the mission the church, the witness of going “to all the nations” is not just for the ordained or the religious. Rather, the mission of being a witness is for all of the church. We here today, whether we be clergy, or laity, are called to be witnesses of Christ in all that we do, in all that we say, and in all that we are. For the entire Mystical Body of Christ, comprised of all her members, empowered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and with the charity drawn from the Eucharist, is called to the labor of building God’s Kingdom here on earth.
So, going back to the events of this past week, you must know, as I was driving down 17th street fuming over a group of young adults whose agenda differed from mine, that my answer to my wife’s question about my desire to get out of the car and confront that inconsiderate mob, was in fact, in error. The truth of the matter is this. I should no longer act in a certain manner just because I am now a Deacon; rather, I must act in a certain manner because, like all of us, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am a witness of Christ in all that I do, and in all that I say, and in who I am.