April 18, 2015

“You Are Witnesses Of These Things” (Luke 24.48) (Easter 3)

The Disciples are witnesses to an extra ordinary event. They physically touch the Risen Jesus and see Him eat food. They are witnesses to the “resurrection of the body” - as we say in the Apostles Creed. You do not choose to be a witness. You are a witness because you were there and saw or experienced something. Witnesses have a moral responsibility to witness - to share the truth in a world confused by lies. Witnesses who report accurately what they have seen or experienced are essential to law and order and the survival of civil society

1. You are my witnesses of these things (Luke 24.48)
In these Readings all Christians are called to be witnesses. This is what we all promise to do in our Baptism and Confirmation. It is not the job of the clergy.
·         Clergy may not have had your experience of the divine
·         Holy Spirit experience is poured out on all the Baptized
·         Clergy help people in their Baptismal ministry of witnessing.
·         We witness by what we say and do in our daily lives
·         People need to notice that we have the happiness - love, joy and peace; that they are searching for
·         Assumption is that we, ourselves, have “got it” and are able to understand and explain (from our reading of Scripture) what “it” is

2. Jesus ‘opened their eyes’ so they could be good witnesses
Like the Apostles we are all born spiritually blind. Even thought the Apostles had spent their lives searching for God and three years travelling with Jesus; they did not really see who He was. It was not until Jesus “breathed on them” that they received the Holy Spirit – and the Holy Spirit opened their spiritual eyes so they could understand.
·         Witnessing is harder now - people are not looking for a Messiah
·         Many people have no religious background or serious teaching
·         Many have been turned off religion by insensitive witnessing
·         Most people do not really “get it”.
·         Do not really see who Jesus is
·         Do not really understand the supernatural world.
·         Have read about it in the Bible – but still do not understand

Most people need to go through some form of supernatural re-awakening, eye-opening or transforming experience - so their spiritual eyes are opened and they can more fully understand the Scriptures

3. In the Epistle John warns us to not be “led astray” (1 John 3.7)
This is of course what has been happening ever since. In our own time the truth that we are to witness to has been challenged by many false prophets:
·         Clergy are afraid of offending people and tempted to talk vaguely about “love”, mutual respect, diversity and ‘many paths to God’
·         Political correctness has replaced calls to ‘repent and turn to the Lord’
·         Preachers are afraid of controversy and avoid talking about sin and the natural consequences of some people not going to heaven

3. In our Readings Peter gives the mother of all witness talks
There is nothing politically correct or culturally sensitive in his witnessing. First of all he gathers a crowd around a miraculous healing. He had their attention after they saw a man be healed in Jesus name.
·         Peter very simply states the blunt truth – what he had witnessed
·         He explains what the audience had done - betrayed Jesus, denied Him, chosen a murderer over Him and crucified Him.  
·         Peter witnesses to what God had done - Raised Jesus to life
·         Peter has their attention - They know they are guilty of murder
·         Peter gives them a way out - He acknowledges that they acted in ignorance and invites them to repent, believe and be forgiven
·         Peter invites people to make a decision.
·         Challenges them to become witnesses – to what they experienced
·         Witnesses know, understand - and must be witness.

We are all witnesses
All of us have probably had some kind of personal experience of the Risen Jesus or the Holy Spirit. We may have had a prayer answered. We may have experienced a feeling of forgiveness or peace with God. Our lives may have been dramatically changed. For each person it is different. Jesus relates to each of us differently.
·         Each of us has a unique experience of the Risen Jesus.
·         We do not decide to be a witness. We already are a witness.
·         Question is - are we going to be a faithful witness - or denyJesus?

Let me share an example. On Saturday I visited an old friend who is dying. I told him he was like a Godfather to me. He and his wife sponsored Lucille and I for a Cursillo weekend that changed our lives. His wife modelled love and humility. Even though she was a gifted musician she humbled herself to help cook and serve dinner to a Committee I served on, so we could plan a Conference. Witnessing is not just what you say – it is what you do.

Let us decide to be like Peter and really help people by witnessing to the truth of the Risen Jesus.

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