4.12.18 Thurs. 2nd wk of Easter (II
Acts of Apostles 5: 27 – 33
Gospel of John 3: 31 – 36
The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy. For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him. The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Participation in Christ
As he stood before the Sanhedrin, Peter said: “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised †Jesus. We are witnesses to these things”. (Acts 5:29-33)
Most of us understand ‘a witness’ is someone who gives testimony, like at a trial where a person tells what they saw. But in the Semitic mind, it is so much more. In Hebrew, the root word for “witness” goes much deeper. The witness not only testifies of what they have seen, but a witness also repeats it over and over again; not only with his words, but also with his life. He participates in that testimony.
So, as they stand before Sanhedrin (in the First Reading) Peter and the apostles not only tell the religious leaders what they know about †Jesus, but they also proclaim with their words and actions what they have known and seen – and they participate in the life and the mission of †Jesus. And by courageously standing before these Pharisees, who want to kill them, they are imitating †Jesus who was not afraid to tell the truth.
In speaking of Himself in today’s Gospel, †Jesus declares: “(The Son) testifies to what He has seen and heard”. (Jn. 3:32) †Jesus is the one who comes from above. He knows the Father and the Father knows Him, and †Jesus has personal knowledge of God’s love – of the mercy that God shown to the Israelite people for all those centuries before His incarnation. Why? Because †Jesus participated in that; He was there – because †Jesus and the Father are One. So †Jesus speaks from firsthand experience about the love and mercy of the Father for the Israelite people for all those centuries – because He was there. †Jesus proclaimed the love and mercy of God in His life – and He did that by giving His life out of love for us and dying for the forgiveness of our sins. So †Jesus continued what He saw the Father doing and participated in it for all those centuries.
The apostles understood this because – they were willing to participate in the selfless love of Christ. And this was witnessed by their courageous proclamation of the Gospel in the Temple, even after they were warned by the religious authorities to stop it. They said: “We can’t stop this, we have to keep doing this”. Just as the apostles participated in †Jesus – we must participate in †Jesus. And to participate in Christ – is to witness Christ’s life – His love and mercy, His compassion with our life.
We read this in the Letter to the Hebrews: “Therefore we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses – let us rid ourselves of every burden…and persevere in running the race that lies before us”. (Heb. 12:1) We must rid ourselves of every hindrance to witnessing to the presence of Christ in our life. And also rid ourselves of every burden – like worrying about what people will think of us – being rejected or worrying about being ridiculed for living a life of participation in a life of Christ, (i.e. more closely resembling the life of †Jesus). We can’t carry that burden – if we truly want to be witnesses of †Jesus – we have to let that go. We have to forget about what people think. Forget about what will happen if you live like †Jesus – it doesn’t matter. You see – this is the difference between saints and those who choose a simple, ‘respectable’ Christian life. The saint is the one who is not afraid to participate in the life of Christ. The ‘respectable’ Christian is the one who just doesn’t want to ‘rock the boat’ and plays it safe.
We should be encouraged by the “great cloud of witnesses” that surround us. This is not just those recognized in the past by the Church by being canonized and having holy cards made of them. It is those around us, today, who witness to lives of heroic virtue – and they are all around us!
In his new ‘Apostolic Exhortation’ on The Call to Holiness In Today’s World – Pope Francis wrote. “These witnesses may include our own mothers and grandmothers, and other loved ones (cf. 2 Tim. 1:5). Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amidst their faults and failings, they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to God” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 3). How would like your children and your grandchildren and your friends say that about you? That would be kind of nice. (I’m not yet perfect but I kept moving forward, trying to live more and more virtue.) Even with all of our warts and wrinkles, even with all of our problems, even with all of our mistakes – we can still be witnesses to God’s love and mercy, even though we are messed up sometimes.
Do you know what I am? ‘I’m a multi-dimensional mess’. I mess up all the time – but that’s O.K., I can still be a witness to Christ. I can still do that – if I only continue to repeat and live His word daily in my life. Can we participate in the life of †Jesus? And the answer is: “Yes”, because we have this promise from †Jesus. “God does not ration the gift of His Spirit”. (Jn.3:34) He never holds back, He just keeps pouring that Spirit on us – hoping that some of it will stick – I’m sure. But don’t be afraid to stand up and testify, don’t be afraid to tell the truth, because the truth of †Jesus Christ will set us free, and we will never stand alone if we do that. We will never be alone because of those clouds of witnesses.
Pope Benedict reminded us of this: “Each of us can say…‘Surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God…I do not have to carry alone what, in truth, I could never carry alone. All the saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me and to carry me.’” (Benedict XVI; Homily for the Solemn Inaguration of the Petrine Ministry; 24 April 2005; AAS 97 (2005), 708).
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.