You Are My Witnesses

Acts 3. 13 – 15, 17-19
Responsorial Psalm: 4
1 John 2. 1 – 5
Luke 24. 35 – 48
Who is a witness? A witness is a person who was actually present at an event and
should, for this reason, be able to describe it as it happened. Usually this term is used to
indicate a person who gives evidence under oath in a law-court.
Jesus said to His disciples: “You are witnesses of these things.” Of what things? They
are asked to be the witnesses of those things which they had seen with their eyes, heard
with their ears and experience with their hearts, of Jesus their Master.
During those three years which they spent with Him, they had seen Him performing
many miracles and wonders. They had noticed great authority in His teaching and
tremendous power in His proclamation of God’s kingdom. When they saw great crowds
flocking to Him and His popularity surpassing even that of John the Baptist, they were
really proud of their Master and happy to be in His company
This is one of the many post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, except that here more
than elsewhere, he is at pains to convince them that he is real, that all has happened as
foretold in scripture, and was part of a divine plan.
It’s an extraordinary fact that one of our basic attitudes towards God is one of fear. The
first time fear is mentioned in the Bible is when Adam and Eve sinned. We are told that
they hid, because they were afraid. From then on, most contacts with God begin with the
words Fear not; be not afraid. This was even said to Mary, as it was to the shepherds. It
is reckoned that Jesus used this expression several dozen times throughout the gospels.
When the apostles cried Out to him in the storm, he replied, “Why did you fear, Oh you
of little faith?” Today’s gospel speaks of the apostles being terribly frightened. This
seems strange, as the reason for the fear is the one person who had always been their best
friend. This fear certainly shows up the limitations of our humanity. It was always a put-
down, when I was a child, to be told that I was afraid of my shadow.
Imagine Jesus pleading with them to believe him. He invites them to touch him, to give
him something to eat, to examine his hands and his feet. Human nature is so fragile, and
so fickle. Obviously, this is the first time the apostles ever came across a situation like

this. We might think that seeing Lazarus, or the daughter of Jairus, or the young man in
Naim, getting up and walking after seeming to be dead, should have prepared them for
this moment. They had known Jesus on a personal basis, and had felt at home in his
company. This time things were different. He had broken free of the constraints of the
human body, and there was a unique presence in him that they had never seen before. We
cannot grasp the utter transformation they felt, when someone they knew and loved was
so utterly transformed, and now has an unearthly aura about him. While they still
doubted, they were filled with joy and wonder as Jesus spoke to them about the promises
of scripture, and how he had fulfilled them. Then he sent them to continue what he had
begun. In the following line, that is not included in today’s gospel, he promises that he
will send them the Spirit and they will have a whole new power, when they will share in
the new power into which he has now entered.
If we look back over our lives most of us will find something or other that we very much
regret. We might remember speaking or acting in ways that hurt or damaged others. We
might be aware of not doing something that we could have done and, that in our heart of
hearts, wanted to do. Sometimes these experiences of personal failure can leave us very
burdened. We can find it hard to move on from them; they trouble us and we struggle to
be free of them. They can weight heavily on us and drain us of energy. We can find
ourselves going back in memory to them over and over again.
The first disciples of Jesus must have felt like this in the aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion.
During the days of Jesus’ final journey, they had all deserted him. Their mood in the
aftermath of Good Friday can only have been one of deep regret. They must have felt that
their relationship with Jesus was over. According to today’s gospel, however, the first
words the risen Jesus spoke to his disciples were, ‘Peace be with you’. These words
assured the disciples of the Lord’s forgiveness. For those first disciples, the initial
experience of the risen Lord took the form of a profound experience of forgiveness. This
was the risen Lord’s gift to them. The gift of forgiveness can be difficult to receive at
times. We wonder if we are really forgiven. According to the gospel, when Jesus said
‘Peace be with you’, they responded with alarm and fright and thought that they might be
seeing a ghost. The risen Jesus then questioned them, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why
are these doubts rising in your hearts?’ It took the disciples a while to realize that they
were forgiven.
It is only after the disciples had come to receive this gift of forgiveness that they were
sent out as messengers of the Lord’s forgiveness to others. According to our gospel, the
risen Lord, having assured them that they were forgiven, went on to commission them to

preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all the nations. It is forgiven sinners who
are entrusted with the task of proclaiming the good news of God’s forgiving love to all.
This is what we find Peter doing in today’s first reading. He declares to the people of
Jerusalem that, although they had handed Jesus over to Pilate, God’s forgiveness was
available to them if they turned to God by believing in Jesus. The church has been
faithful to the mission entrusted to the disciples, proclaiming down the centuries the good
news that God’s forgiveness is stronger than human sin. In raising Jesus from the dead
and sending him back to those who had rejected him and failed him, God was declaring
that he can raise anyone from their sins. The risen Jesus reveals a faithful, forgiving God.
Today’s 2nd Reading states this clearly: ‘If anyone does sin, we have our advocate with
the Father, Jesus Christ, who is just’.
Before we can receive the Easter gift of God’s forgiveness that comes to us through the
risen Lord, we must first acknowledge our need of that gift. In the words of today’s 2nd
Reading, we need to admit the truth. The truth is that we are always in need of the gift of
God’s forgiveness. Recognizing our need and asking God for the gift of forgiveness is
what we call repentance. Peter in the first reading calls on the people of Jerusalem to
repent and turn to God so that their sins may be wiped out. The risen Lord in the gospel
sends out his disciples to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The Sacrament of
Reconciliation is a privileged opportunity to admit the truth, to acknowledge our need of
God’s forgiveness and to ask directly for it. In that sacrament that the risen Lord says to
us, ‘Peace be with you’. The words of absolution include the prayer, ‘through the
ministry of the church may God grant you pardon and peace’.
The first disciples, having received the gift of the Lord’s forgiveness, were sent to spread
that forgiveness to others. In a similar way, we who receive the same gift are sent out on
the same mission. As forgiven sinners we proclaim with our lives the presence of a
forgiving and faithful God. We extend to others the gift we have received from the Lord.
This will not always come easy to us. Who was it who said, ‘to err is human, to forgive is
divine’? If that is true, we need divine help to do what is divine. In the verses that
immediately follow where today’s gospel ends, the risen Jesus promises his disciples that
he would send the Holy Spirit upon them. It is only in the power of the Holy Spirit that
they would be able to engage in the task that Jesus was entrusting to them. We need the
same Spirit if we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. In the weeks ahead that lead up
to the feast of Pentecost, we might pray the prayer, ‘Come Holy Spirit, fill my heart and
enkindle in me the fire of your love’. We could pray this prayer especially during those
times when we find ourselves struggling to pass on to others the gift of forgiveness that
we continue to receive from the Lord.

Each and every Christian has an indispensable duty to bear witness to the fact that Jesus
is risen and alive. A Christian who does not bear witness to Christ is not worthy to be
called a Christian at all. He is a missing Christian.
The disciples of Jesus were commissioned to be witnesses of the things they had seen,
heard an experienced. We too are commissioned to be witnesses of our own experience
of Christ. It is true that we have not seen Him with our physical eyes, or listened to His
voice with our ears. But how ill it be possible for us to be His effective witnesses if we
don’t see Him with our inner eyes, listen to Him with our inner ears, and experience Him
in our hearts?
God bless.