We Are Witnesses
by Rev. Jerome A. Magat
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
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 and 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."
For the third Sunday of Easter, the Church asks us to consider the events of Easter Sunday from the perspective of St. Luke’s Gospel. The two disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus have just returned to the cenacle with news of their remarkable experience with the Risen One. Then, in dramatic fashion, Jesus appears to those in the upper room and after proving to them that He is not a ghost, He says, “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.”
As witnesses to the resurrected Jesus, the apostles placed an immense premium on having witnessed the Lord in His resurrected state. In fact, when they chose St. Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot, as recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, they insisted that whomever was to replace Judas had to have been a witness to the resurrected Christ (cf. Acts 1:22). Similarly, the importance of having encountered the resurrected Christ was not lost on St. John. In the prologue of the First Letter of St. John, he writes, “That what was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life… .” John testifies that the story of Jesus of Nazareth is not some legend or fable or myth; rather, all that he is saying about Jesus is born out of a real, historical encounter with the God-man he saw crucified at Calvary but was resurrected three days later.
The witness of the apostles lives on in the Church. Catholics can say with certainty that they are witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a way, the Church is the last remaining witness of the resurrection. Without the Church, the testimony of the original witnesses of the resurrected Jesus would have perished with the death of the last apostle, St. John. And yet, for 2,000 years, the Church has continued to proclaim what the apostles and their successors, the bishops, have handed down through the ages, keeping alive the witness of “these things.”
Above all, the resurrection is the confirmation and proof of Jesus’ teaching and works. By His resurrection, Jesus has given us definitive proof of His divine authority. The Church keeps alive the flame of faith in regards to this central mystery of Christianity and has taken up the mission, “that repentance for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations.” Thus, the witness of the Church keeps us connected to the witness of the apostles and to Jesus Himself, Indeed, we are witnesses of these things.
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