Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Mission of Being Witnesses of the Risen Lord

Third Sunday of Easter: 18 April 2021

Mass Reading:  Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9; 1 John 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48

Sion's Kirke Copenhagen - altar painting, Artist: Poul Steffensen (1866-1923)

To listen to my audio reflections please click here

"Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45). Perhaps these words of St Luke the Evangelist tell us concretely about Jesus and his disciples. The experiences of the apparition of Jesus leave the disciples not only strengthened in their faith in their master but also they see everything and that so far has happened in order to fulfil what is said in the scriptures. As true followers of the religion of Abraham, the disciples knew well about TaNaKh =Torah (Pentateuch), Nevi'im (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings). All the bits and pieces that they had experienced the earthly life of their Lord now they can weave it well and see how God has been working in their lives. Jesus' life and his action become very real to their eyes of faith and a life of hope. With this new encouragement and renewed spirit, they become witnesses of their Master's life and legacy to the ends of the universe.

1. Witness means ready to testify what is experienced

In our simple language to be a witness means to be present and testify the facts. The disciples of Jesus become the bold witness of his gospel. There is nothing that can deter them from giving witness after they experienced the Risen Jesus. They are exposed to the sufferings and hardships, trials and tribulations, yet their faith in the mission of the Lord is undiminished. In all these things their mind is open to the scripture and the Good News. The Gospel narrative of today continues to strengthen the disciples. One experience leads to another rich experience of the Risen Jesus and the disciples are being moulded to be strong in their convictions and belief. As the disciples feel strengthened by the experience of the disciples of Emmaus, the Risen Jesus makes his appearance to his friends once again casting away all the doubts if it all they had. Thus their doubts are cleared and spirit is raised. These experiences spring into action in proclaiming the gospel to the world. 

Often in our lives, too, only one God experience is not sufficient. But we need more of such experiences or at least such recurrent experiences even though of low intensity but certainly they need in order to build upon our faith in Jesus. The multiple experiences of God in our lives are necessary just like running water in a stream to keep life around and to blossom. However, an effort is necessary to keep that stream running and never allow to go dry. I could ponder today in what ways I can further the experience of the Lord in spite of the situations and problems that I face every day of my life? What are the temptations that make me to enter into a world of self-sufficiency and self-complacency? 

2. Doubt is not the answer to our call to witness

"But they [disciples] were startled and frightened and supposed that they saw a spirit" (Luke 24:27). Christ tells the disciples: “For a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). Jesus is able to understand the feeling of his disciples. Only a person who knows his own very well might be able to know the inner happenings and feelings. Jesus urges us to shake off the doubts in our hearts and recognise God living and dwelling in each of us. Probably, one of the problems in living our authentic Christian faith is being unsure about ourselves, being unaware of who we are, and what we are. We are threatened by our own inadequacies and unfaithfulness to what we are. Fear, doubt, laziness, reluctance, unnecessary anxiety, angst, low self-esteem, lack of discipline in life, a feeling of I am good for nothing, dwelling on a question like what others think about me, and so on often defeat us to do what God calls us to. The more I dwell upon myself, the less capable or weak in grace am going to be and a true witness of our Lord. If you have experienced Jesus and continue to build your life on the Risen Lord then there is nothing that can stop you from believing in Him who has called you to be a Christian, priest, nun or religious. A mature Christian is one who believes in Him whatever may come in one's way, corona or failure, chronic illness or financial difficulties. 

Has the love of God reached perfection in you? Most of us would probably feel that this could never happen to us. That we’re just not good enough, we’ve got too many flaws and sins … or maybe even that it’s not the sort of thing we should even think about. But here is a reading where St John the Evangelist says it is possible for the love of God to reach perfection in us (I John 2:5)!  Maybe there is something that blocks out that light, or causes it to fade. The promise of the Risen Lord should brighten our lives.  

3. Risen Lord continues to strengthen us
One of the beautiful experiences the disciples went through is the repeated apparitions of the Risen Jesus. The Risen Christ comes back to his people whom he loved, his friends, his little children in order to console them, comfort them, as well as build them up. The meetings of Jesus are not just a moment experience but a continuous, multifaced and ongoing inputs. They experience their master's presence in various circumstances, unknown events and in surprising places. The disciples are ever ready to receive the Risen Lord in unfamiliar places. His presence incognito not only surprises the disciples but fills them with the hope that he continues to live with them. What is important is our readiness to receive the experience of the Risen Lord even in unforeseen situations.  

The words like “Were not our hearts burning within us?” should ring loudly to us all. This sign of terrific encounter with the Risen Lord always should enkindle to grow in the graces. So, the question is how do I get my own heart burning for the Lord? As the days continue to pass by, the monotony of activities and days might defeat us to feel that deep desire for the Lord in encountering in my life of prayer, activities, service, and such other things. Moreover, the ongoing onslaught of the second wave of the Corona pandemic may put us in a pessimistic attitude.  There may be tendencies just like the disciples to remain startled at the empty tomb and make little progress of being witnesses of the abundance of grace. The Risen Lord is no longer bound by space and time, moreover, the Lord is of all space and all time. As we proclaimed at the Easter Vigil with the paschal candles in our hands,  our Lord is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Jesus continues to make his bodily presence, not a ghostly one: he eats food with disciples and invites them to touch them. With the resurrection, Jesus would not return to his former public ministry instead in his manifestations at every appearance he would commission for the mission and the disciples continue the work of Jesus. It is ‘in Christ’ that all things are to be made new and, as today’s gospel tells us, it is in Christ’s ‘name’, his power and his presence, that the communion and mission of Christians are to be lived out.  

God revealed himself to humanity in a particular time of history. The church's mission today is to advance that revelation of God through the person of Jesus Christ to the rest of the world in witnessing the truth about Jesus, to bring people to repentance and wiping away of sins and the perfection of their love for God.  The world of today is no different than the times of Jesus. Just as in Jesus’ time, there is much suffering, corruption and inequality in the world today. And so we are called to be witnesses and to testify to the strength and dignity of humanity. Like the disciples, we too are called to be active witnesses to hope: for a better world, for a better future and for a more sustainable world where everyone can thrive. We could ask for the grace that it is not sufficient to know more "about" Jesus but to truly know Him personally and intimately and to know His plan for our lives.

Questions for Reflections

1. All through Easter we stand in the light of the Resurrection after the long shadows of the Cross. Do you feel yourself bathed in that light? What moves within you when you ponder that the light of Christ is shining on you?  

2. How am I living this Easter season? Am I too much worried about the Second wave of Corona pandemic in our country?

3. What might this look like being joyful witnesses in our world today? How are we to be witnesses?

Prayer:

Lord, I know that you are faithful over all things, even in the hard dark times of my life. Help me not back away from you in my time of grief. Help me instead to lean into you and trust you, even when I do not understand Your ways. Help me to see You in these harsh hard moments and to glorify You in my response. 

Giver of hope, grant me the courage to bear your hope to those I encounter, and your children all over the world. May I bear witness and testify to your presence among us, and use our voices to bring about your kingdom on earth.  In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

17 April 2021

Friday, April 9, 2021

Being Amazed at the Power of the Resurrection

Second Sunday of Easter: Sunday of Divine Mercy - 11 April 2021

Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31 

(Mosaic by Fr Marko Rupnik, SJ)

To listen to my audio reflections please click here

The readings that we have for our liturgies during the Easter Season are centred around the resurrection of Jesus which contain not only what the Risen Lord did to those fear-stricken disciples but also to those who were around them. The beginning chapters of the Acts of the Apostles are full of life and vigour. The resurrection of Jesus brings together all his 11 disciples under a specific community with a particular task: To proclaim the resurrection of the Lord. 

1. Resurrection is courage in place of fear

And the effects of the event of the Resurrection are experienced by those people who follow the apostles of Jesus and see in them a new energy flowing. And it is aptly demonstrated by today's reading. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the disciples are sent out to take God’s peace or “shalom” to the world. Peter becomes a significant figure within the early Christian Community in imitating Christ. If Christ proclaimed his Father’s mission, now Peter the disciple of Jesus proclaims Christ. Because those who have seen the Son have seen the Father, those who saw Jesus, have seen God. 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Empty Tomb and the Reality of the Resurrection

Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord: 04 April 2021

Mass Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9

(The Resurrection of Christ, 2006. Mosaic, by Fr Marko Rupnik, SJ, at St. Stanislaus College Chapel, Ljubljana, Slovenia.)


1. Empty tomb means entering into the mystery of God's life

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:2). These are the first words of Mary Magdeline to the two close disciples of Jesus, Peter and John which she must have uttered with utter disbelief, panic and fear when she did not find Jesus in the tomb. The first Easter day is filled with full of emotions. Horror or fear grips the disciples as they find that someone had carried away the body of Jesus. We also notice confusion as they saw the empty tomb and the clothes lying on the ground. “Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.” (John 20:8). As we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, we praise him for his glory. Christ’s resurrection is something very special. It is rising from death and he will die no more. It’s about someone who has risen to an entirely new form of life, eternal life. It is a mystery of the reality of God's way of acting and perfecting us. So that we are not locked ourselves or to lie buried in the tomb of our own inadequacies of sin, evil habits, discouragement, doubt or to flee from what we fail to understand, or to close our eyes to problems or deny them.