There is a story about a Greek philosopher who one day was seen talking to the statues in the marketplace. When people asked him why he was talking to the statues he replied that no one who was alive would listen to him.
We cannot believe if we do not listen, if we dismiss the testimony of our ancestors in faith. In today’s Gospel the risen Jesus appears to Mary and to the two disciples along the road. Mary and the disciples witnessed their experience but the people to whom they witnessed did not believe.
But more than hearing is at stake here— belief is based not simply on an autitory process but on an experiential one. Many of us (that would be me) identify with Thomas in the Gospel – he would not believe unless he experienced the risen Lord. I suspect Tom was from Missouri, the show-me state. I’m from New Jersey, the gardenia state – or is that garden state?
In our first reading the Sanhedrin see that two ordinary men, Peter and John, cure a man through the power of Jesus. Rather than believing in the power of Christ the Sanhedrin ignore this manifestation and plot against the disciples.
Both these stories hinge on the key task of witness. In the first story, the Sanhedrin, although they recognize the miracle, seek to surpress the witness given by Peter and James. In the second story, Jesus asks the disciples (that would be us) to go out and witness to the world. There is an interesting reversal here – the apostles in the first reading are successful in their witness while the disciples in the second reading are unsuccessful. Jesus does not rebuke the disciples for providing an ineffectual witness but rather he rebukes their hearers for not believing and in turn invites them to bear witness.
There is always a third reading at the daily liturgy, one that is in the process of being written—our own lives. We have the option of talking to the statues in the church- they are very patient! We can also tell others, bearing witness to the risen Lord. Ignatius of Loyola gives us this principle: love shows itself more clearly in action then in words. Instead of talking, we can do something. We witness through action as we do through words.
Last Sunday I was the presider for a community in Omaha. Upstairs we celebrated the liturgy – the deacon gave a beautiful sermon on how people had rallied to his assistance when he was sick . Downstairs volunteers were making sandwiches for the homeless. Because of my own vision impairment the deacon and parishioners helped me navigate both spaces – and the stairs between.
That day the resurrection was proclaimed loudly through the breaking of the bread and the making of sandwiches, through those who reached out to help the deacon and the deacon and others who reached out to help me.
Go and make disciples of the whole world. We can do that best by ourselves being disciples. Whether we talk to the masses or to the marble statues, people will watch what we are doing. What seems like a tall order (make disciples of all nations) begins with living a generous life, part of which is allowing others to be generous to us.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook