It is valuable to know that the few verses preceding THIS SUNDAY’S FIRST READING [ACTS 3: 13 – 16. 17 – 19b] actually sets the tone for the teaching given by Peter. “In those days: Peter said to the people.” What happened immediately before our extract? Peter had cured the lame man with the words “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.” Peter set out the basics – what had happened was the result of faith in Christ and a sign that Jesus was alive. Peter drew attention away from his own person by giving WITNESS to the resurrected Lord. Here we see the importance of two truths. First of all, the Lord is no longer Jesus of Nazareth but he is now THE CHRIST. Secondly, at the same time, Peter wants to ensure that his listeners realise that THE CHRIST was this same JESUS OF NAZARETH. He was “killed” but was the “Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To THIS we are WITNESSES.”

At once it is worth reflecting on this focus. To begin with these first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles provide us with daily accounts of the actions of the first witnesses to Christianity – and how the believing community grew and developed as the result of WITNESS.

Jesus Christ was the author of life. So for us Christians, the really challenging question should be clear. How much of my witness is LIFE-GIVING? Here I am not talking about protesting against, by way of example, capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia, condoms or ‘the pill’. Rather – WHAT AM I FOR? Does my witness GIVE LIFE? Does it provide new hope for those who are struggling with grief, tragedy or unexpected physical disability? Do I encourage, affirm, express appreciation and thanks? Do I frequently tell those who I love and care for how special and wonderful they are? Here, also, the traditional seven corporal works of mercy provide me with a penetrating examination of conscience. Am I an author of life?

If we read these post Easter chapters from the Acts of the Apostles carefully, we will see that the first believers were always FOR something – seldom, if ever, AGAINST. Call to mind that even in a criminal court case there are witnesses for the prosecution – and witnesses for the defence. The extract this Sunday makes something very clear – “to this we are witnesses.” What is more likely to be productive or helpful – to be FOR or to be against? Hear a phrase from TODAY’S PSALM [4] – “from anguish you release me.”

Is this not all brought together in Jesus’ WORD to us – not only the words spoken but the WORD which records what he actually did? Was Jesus for or against – in what area was his primary emphasis? What should the primary focus of a witness be – for or against?

We come now to TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 24:35 – 48]. In these lines we are being told important things which are basic to our discipleship. We will see that the disciples did not come easily to faith in the fact of resurrection. However, it was even more difficult for them to believe in the resurrected JESUS. There were doubts. It took time for them to accept this new reality. When Jesus appears to them “they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit.”

So, Jesus eats with them. “Have you anything here to eat?” Then “they gave him a piece of broiled fish.” The message to them (and us) is clear. “The Risen Lord is different, unrecognizable, but not a different person. He is the same Jesus they used to touch and eat with.” {page 96 Celebrating the Word – year B: FERNANDO ARMELLINI}

The risen Jesus gives the disciples signs to help and lead them to a resurrection faith. However, signs are not enough – they have to be understood. We have to look and GO through the sign. It is in the sincere looking and going through that our faith develops, matures and strengthens. There are moments on this journey when our understanding is unexpectedly and suddenly increased and deepened. This happens to all of us. It began to happen with the disciples in today’s Gospel.

Sometimes we are startled and frightened. The Lord asks us, “why are you troubled?” Perhaps because we are too quick to imagine that something dreadful is about to happen? Rather, we should develop the habit of encountering JESUS HIMSELF in the ‘problem’ that has arisen – before we imagine the worst. “It is I myself.”

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