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18 April 2021 Homily - Collapsible Text
Third Sunday of Easter
April 18, 2021
Fr. Rick Lorenz
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
1 Jn 2:1-5
In our lives, we have witnessed many things. We start as blank slates that have memories written down on them. The things that we have seen, heard, tasted, smelled and touched become a large part of our identities. Most of them are written lightly: they are forgotten so get erased, or they become covered up by other sensations. Some of them stand out. We all have a first memory. Mine is sitting on the airplane when we moved from Winnipeg to Halifax. In those days, people dressed up to fly. I had my bow tie, and my little sister was beside me wearing her blue dress. Other memories stand out; not all good. My friend hitting me with his shovel; the first day of school when the child beside me wrote on my pants and the teacher yelled at me in French. Others are better: seeing the rays of the sun through the clouds on the morning of a wedding, and telling my aunts and uncles that "God is here today." We've witnessed things: they've made an impression on us; we remember and can describe them. I think that a parent cannot remember every diaper that they've changed, but can recall the first sight of their newborn child: even if they've had more than one.
Sometimes a person is asked to serve as a witness. They've seen a car accident or a crime, and have to recall for the official record what they remember. These memories can be confused, hazy or mistaken, so need to match up with other testimonies to be useful.
The apostles were many things, but today's readings remind us that they were witnesses. They experienced the risen Lord, and Jesus charged them to give their testimony to others. Jesus said, "Touch me and see." They saw him standing suddenly in their midst, and looked at his hands and feet. They heard him say "Peace be with you." They would have tasted the broiled fish that they shared with him. Unforgettable memories drawn right from their senses, written not in chalk but indelible ink. More hazy is how he tied the law, the prophets and the psalms to his passion. The Gospel says, "He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures," but the discourse was too much for Luke to write down word for word. But the Holy Spirit explains it to every Christian when they go to church, and through grace we eventually get the picture. Too many words, but the apostles remembered the summary: "Thus it is written, that the Christ is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." And they remembered his declaration, their mandate, which became their identity: "You are witnesses of these things." After Pentecost, they lived out their identity as mission. We hear that in the First Reading. Beginning in Jerusalem, Peter explained the death of Jesus, asserted his resurrection, and said: "To this we are witnesses." Not just two or three of them as required by the Law of Moses, but eleven, who would later be joined by Matthias and Paul. Peter spoke harsh words about rejection and murder, but also mercy, repentance and forgiveness.
The apostles served as witnesses through their words of preaching; their lives of sharing; their miracles of healing. Most of them witnessed in a final way by becoming martyrs. The word "martyr" is from the Greek word μαρτυς (martees) which translates as witness. Some of them also gave written testimony: Matthew, Peter, Paul; perhaps James and (our own St.) Jude. John did not die a martyr, but wrote a Gospel, the Book of Revelation, and three letters that have survived. Today's letter says, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin." The beloved wrote so that we could believe, so that we could have eternal life, so that we could share in what he found: union with Christ that stretches out to union with all that we've witnessed and more: through him, with him and in him, a union with creation and creator becoming perfect love; a vision that will be fulfilled in the age to come.