24 April 2011

You're [a] Witness

Easter Sunday
            I remember it like it was yesterday.  I left the crowded streets and the hot air and went into the cold building.  I walked straight to the middle and got in line.  I went in to a smaller edifice in the middle.  It was then that I became an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus.  You see, I was in Jerusalem on pilgrimage with the first-year seminarians from Sacred Heart, and we were able to enter into not only the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the place where Jesus died, was buried, and rose, but we were also able to enter into the aediculum, the building erected inside the Church over the spot of the tomb that housed Jesus’ body until the resurrection.
The empty Tomb of Christ
            Now, I’m not bringing this up simply because I’m leading a pilgrimage in November 2012.  But it truly was an awesome, and experience filled with the wonder and awe in God’s presence, to go to that very place and, while not running like Sts. Peter and John from our Gospel account today, still becoming someone who can personally testify that Jesus’ body is not there!  He has risen from the dead as He promised!
            But, even though I’d love to have a full pilgrimage, the great news is that you don’t have to travel to Israel to draw into the events which we have just celebrated over this Sacred Triduum.  You don’t have to go to the physical Upper Room, walk to the Garden of Gethsemane outside the old city walls, or walk to the Church of Holy Sepulcher to re-live those powerful events of the Last Supper, Agony in the Garden, Crucifixion, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ.  We live out those three days each Sunday as we gather as the Body of Christ in the Church.  We gather in this room with Jesus who, present in the priest, says to us, “Take and eat; this is my body; take and drink; this is my blood.”  We kneel with Jesus as we prepare for his agonizing death, which then took place on the altar of the cross, and is re-presented for us on this altar as He once more hands over His Body and pours our His Blood for us in the Eucharist.  We see His Body, the same Body which is “seated at the right hand of God,” as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, present to us truly and sacramentally in the Eucharist we receive. 
We become witnesses of the resurrection through these mysteries we celebrate today, and every Sunday, the 8th day of the week, as we celebrate Easter every time Sunday.  This is why the Church asks, invites, and, yes, requires us to attend every Sunday: because we need to remember the Paschal Mystery each week as it defines who we are as a Church, as a people.  We need that grace of the Eucharist to help us to be faithful disciples, to love others, even the ones who do us wrong, just as Jesus loved those who put Him to death.
            And, as witnesses of the resurrection and the great deeds that God has accomplished in Jesus, we should not be able to keep that Good News, the Gospel, to ourselves.  Knowing how much God loves us, and to what extent that love goes, the message that St. Peter preached in the first reading.  How “God raised [Jesus] on the third day…He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.”  Like any good news that we receive: a new child conceived, a new job, a new car, a good grade on an exam or paper, and any of the earthly news that we can’t wait to tell others, we should want to tell our friends, our roommates, our neighbors, and anyone about the great news of the resurrection and what that means for us: that we can rise with Christ if we are baptized into His death.
            Whether we have seen the empty tomb in Jerusalem or whether we see Jesus among us in His people, in His Word, and in the Eucharist, we are all witnesses of the resurrection.  I hope we share that most joyful of news with others that they may also find new life in their relationship with Christ.