3rd Sunday of Easter
Gospel of Luke 24:35-48
This past week tragedy came to my family and the loss we are experiencing is significant and substantial. However, my family is not unique in this experience of loss, for many more of us have had to endure the grief and pain of losing loved ones, most especially this past year. The death of my father in-law, though sad and unexpected, was predicted, for death is a reality in this world. Death takes those whom we love and very rarely are we, who are left behind, ever truly prepared to live in a reality existing in their absence. Though death may be a reality… death is very rarely a real part of our daily consciousness.
I apologize for beginning today’s homily with such a stark and somber topic… however, in light of the recent loss experienced in my family, I feel I am able to approach today’s Gospel with a different perspective and I hope that you might be able to find some truth and inspiration as a result.
Today we read St. Luke’s account of Jesus’s appearance to the disciples in the locked room. We read how he suddenly appeared in their midst, granted them peace, and how they responded in terror and fear, in wonderment and amazement, and in doubt and dismay. We read how Jesus proved himself through touch, demonstrating that he is not only flesh and bone, but that he also shares a common humanity.
So, this morning I ask you, for just a moment, to reflect on the loss of a loved one that you have experienced. Bring to mind the image of a loved one who is no longer with you. Consider their influence and significance and recall the reality of their absence. If you can do that this morning, you are able to identify, dare I say, empathize with those disciples present in that upper room behind that locked door. For they too, were, at that moment, attempting to deal with loss. They too were recalling the life they lived with Jesus and attempting to learn how to live their lives without him. Just as we have no illusions that our deceased loved ones will mysteriously appear in our midst, so too did they have no framework for thought that Jesus would suddenly appear in their midst. Yet, he did! And, just as he did to them… so too does he present himself to us today!
I have a not so well-known fact about myself that I would like to share with you today. I love motivational speeches, especially ones from movies. Movie monologues such as those that are found in Braveheart, or Dances with Wolves, or just about any decent sports movie ever made will eat up hours of my time as I re-watch them as I travel down a YouTube worm hole.
In today’s Gospel, I propose that Jesus’s final words are in fact just that… a motivational speech. It starts with, “These are my words!”
If this were a Hollywood movie this scene would start with the appearance of Jesus in a dimly lit room. Initially, he would be shrouded in shadows, the figure of a man for sure, but lacking details and specific features. As he begins to speak the shadows disappear and Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man begins to subtly play in the background. (If you are not familiar with that piece of music, I encourage you to Google it when you get home.)
Jesus speaks to his disciples with clear and direct language. He tells them that that he is fulfillment of the very Word of God, and that because of his suffering and death all of humankind can be forgiven. And then, as the music crescendo’s, Jesus pauses to look directly into the eyes of each and every one of his disciples and states, “You are witnesses of these things!”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, those exact words are also directed to us. We are the witnesses of the reality that Jesus Christ, fully man and fully God, walked on this earth as the fulfillment of the Word of God and, that he died, and that he is resurrected, and our sins are forgiven.
Our witness to Christ this week begins here in front of this altar. When we come together in communion and profess our belief that Jesus Christ is indeed risen, we will do so with our amen. We, as one Church, in community, and in faith believe that the risen body of our Lord and Savior is present in this, our Eucharistic Feast. And when we say our amen… we must also commit to living our amen.
We fulfill Christ’s command to be witness in how we treat one another. We fulfill Christ’s command to be a witness when we live out our faith in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our works spaces, and with all those whom we encounter. We fulfill Christ’s command to be witnesses when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, provide refuge to the stranger, and visit those in prison, and provide comfort to the sick and dying. We fulfill Christ’s command to be witnesses when we treat others with dignity, respect, kindness, and mercy. We fulfill Christ’s command to be witnesses when strive to become like Christ here on this earth.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, let today, this 3rd Sunday of Easter, be our day to be encouraged, to be inspired, and to commit ourselves to strive fully and completely and be “witnesses to these things.”