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by Birgit Oberhofer | April 19, 2012
Scripture Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter (April 22, 2012)
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48
Today’s Gospel reading ends with the matter-of-fact statement by Jesus: “You are witnesses of these things”. “These things” include the experience of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus wants the apostles to preach “these things” to “all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Does this statement only include the apostles of 2,000 years ago, who have experienced the resurrection first-hand, or could he possibly mean also us, Jesus’ disciples in the 21st century? Are we, too, called to be witnesses of Christ’s resurrection and the Good News of the forgiveness of sins? Can we bring the joyful message of Christ’s continuous presence among us to the nations of today? Or are we blocked in our Easter-faith by doubts and questions; by our own limits and sinfulness; by attacks from our society and culture and the constant bad news about “the Church?”
Thinking about this question I tried to remember moments when I have encountered the presence of the Risen Lord in my own life. One episode came to my mind: Some years ago I was struggling with a relationship with one of my roommates. One day I was so upset and hurt that I couldn’t stand it anymore. I took my bike and rode to a near-by forest. I sat down and tried to calm down. It was a beautiful place with a little stream surrounded by a sea of white flowers. As I was sitting there and reflecting on my situation, a sense of calm and peace overcame me and this one sentence came to my mind: “Love conquers everything!” I have no idea, where this phrase came from, but I know that it gave me the courage to go back with a deep sense of peace and freedom, and reconcile with my roommate.
But this is certainly not the only moment… Many times Christ comes to us “in disguise”. He is with us through the Sacraments; is alive in a believing and loving community; hides himself in the hearts of those who suffer; and is always there to call us into discipleship.
It is true that life is not always easy and even if we are trying to live a faith-filled life as disciples of Jesus we experience suffering, doubt and sin. But that’s nothing new. The author of the first letter of John, our second reading, knew about that, too: “If anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.” So we don’t have to worry about our limits and failures. Sometimes we are so focused on those that we don’t see the small signs of Christ’s presence and forget about the redemption and liberation from our sins that Jesus’ death and resurrection brought about, once and for all. Instead of holding on to our frustrations and disappointments, we should hand them over to Jesus who is right there with us. After our invitation to “think different” during this Lent, we now need to learn to “look different” and with new eyes, to recognize the presence of the Crucified-Risen Lord in our lives and in our world. The appearances of the Risen One might be a little less dramatic than in our Gospel reading, but they are not less of a reality.
But how can we give witness to our faith in the Resurrection and the power of redemption in Christ? Again, the author of the first letter of John gives us an answer: “Whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.” Our life will be a powerful witness of Christ’s presence if we put the words of the Gospel into practice. In that way, God’s love will grow in us and we will be able to pour it out to others. In another passage of the letter the author promises us that God remains in us if we love one another. (1 Jn 4:12) Mutual love seems to be the key to the presence of God and the key to our witness of it: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35)
And this can happen in very small and simple ways. This weekend for example, we had a retreat with young women who are discerning their vocation. There was so much love and depth among all that it made me realize how happy and grateful I am about my life and my own vocation. After the retreat I went running along the lake. It was very windy and the papers of a young woman who was studying at the shore were blown away. I didn’t even have to think twice and started running after her papers. She was so happy and thanked me, which gave me a deep joy about this opportunity to show her the same love that I had experienced during the retreat.
As we gather to celebrate the Eucharist on this third Sunday of Easter, let us ask Jesus to give us “Easter eyes” that help us to discover Christ’s continuous presence in our lives and to be “witnesses of these things” by our mutual love.
Lord, give us Easter-eyes, so that we may see far away,
from death to life, from guilt to forgiveness,
from separation to unity, from dignity to glorification,
from people to God, from God to people, from me to you.
Give us Lord, the power of Easter to live the Resurrection! Amen!
(by Klaus Hemmerle (1929 – 1994), Bishop of Aachen, Germany, from 1975 – 1994)
Birgit Oberhofer is originally from Munich, Germany where she graduated from Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität with a Master of Arts in Education Science, Psychology and Theology in 1999. After two years of formation in Italy she became a consecrated member of the Focolare Movement, a lay ecclesial movement, living in one of their houses in Cologne, Germany. There she worked as a program developer and grant writer for one of the biggest charity organizations in Germany, running programs in the field of Adult Formation and Social Work. In December 2007 she moved to Chicago and became the Assistant Director of Catholics on Call in July 2008.