Thursday, April 20, 2006

reflection on today's readings: on being a "witness to these things"

Today's readings:

Acts 3:11-26
Psalm 8
Luke 24:35-48

"And you are witnesses of these things," Jesus tells the disciples: witnesses to his dying and rising. What is interesting about that verse is that the original word that Luke used for the word "witness" is "martus" in Greek. And "martus" means martyr. For Luke, to be a witness is more than just being an eyewitness to an event and then giving testimony about it.

And so what Luke seems to be saying by using this word is that those who witness to Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection—those who give testimony to it—are those who also share in Christ’s own dying and rising: that they are more than mere spectators who then merely give an account of what they saw. Rather, to give witness, is to experience in the own lives a type of dying and rising to new life.

When one reads the story of a saint like St. Therese of Lisieux, one can’t help but recognize not only an experience of dying but also an experience of the power of resurrection, of Easter. Therese was a woman who suffered psychologically from a type of overt hypersensitivity, to the extent that just a small slight or offense would cause her to recoil and withdraw in tears. And the result of this was a childhood robbed of life, zest, happiness, and even of physical health.

However one day when she was very ill and close to death, she experienced a miracle which not only brought her healing physically but also psychologically. After her healing she still remained a person of great sensitivity, but her physical healing also brought with it the ability to be resilient, to bounce back, and to live more fully.

And her autobiography, where she tells this story of hers has become an inspiration to many. Her experience as well as the experience of others who likewise rose from adversity and trials point to two things: first they point to the power of faith–faith in the resurrection, a faith that says that the wounds that afflict us in life, whatever they may be—emotional, physical, or psychological afflictions—do not have the last word, but rather they will ultimately give way to healing and to life.

Secondly they point to how the mystery of Good Friday and Easter Sunday are being made present. When we name and recognize our wounds and our martyrdoms, and then claim where we have been reborn, transformed---as St. Therese did---we are giving flesh to the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising. We are making that mystery real, as real as the risen Son of God appearing before the disciples and showing them his wounds.

Christ’s sacrifice and rising did not end over 2000 years ago, but rather, they continue. They continue in our lives, in the lives of each of God’s beloved. And we are witnesses of these things.

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