'You are witnesses of these things.' 3rd Sunday of Easter Year B
Supper at Emmaus, Rembrandt, c.1629
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Gospel Luke 24:35-48 (NAB)
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."
Appearance While the Apostles are at Table, Duccio di Buoninsegna, c. 1308-11
Jesus tells the Eleven Apostles in today’s gospel that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
Repentance for the forgiveness of sins includes healing. The Gospels are full of stories of the healing of individuals. In the story of the paralyzed man let down through the roof by his friends so that Jesus could see him the Lord says to him first, My son, your sins are forgiven (Mark 2: 6). Only after that does he heal the man. In the story of the woman caught in adultery we read that Jesus looked up at the women and said ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again’ (John 8:10-11). In the experience of her repentance and being forgiven by Jesus the woman was healed.
Jesus tells us that this message would be preached in his name to all the nations, and not only to the Apostles but to each of us, You are witnesses of these things.
This very weekend that is happening in Beirut, Lebanon. A Rachel’s Vineyard retreat is being led by Bernadette from Ireland. This is a weekend of healing for women and men directly affected by abortion. It is a weekend where individuals can hear God’s forgiving and healing word in a safe and loving situation, where others who have experienced God’s healing love in this particular context are witness of these things.
Every single one of us struggles with our sinfulness. Our experience of others forgiving us and of God himself forgiving us directly in the sacrament of confession can enable us to be witnesses to this.
Please pray that all involved in the retreat in Beirut will experience very powerfully the healing power of God’s love and that those who are healed will go on to become witnesses of these things to others suffering from the pain of loss and of the awareness of their own sinfulness.
Lebanon is a country that has suffered greatly through wars. The Civil War lasted from 1975 to 1990 with great loss of life. But below is a joyful proclamation in Arabic of the Resurrection of Jesus recorded last year in a shopping mall in Beirut. Around 39 percent of the country’s population of around 4,250,000 are Christians and more than half the Christians are Catholics of the Maronite Rite. The rest are Catholics of other rites and members of various Orthodox churches. The video too may remind us that most of the Christians in the Middle East are Arabs and descendants of the earliest Christians.