The Resurrection of Christ imposes a serious obligation on each one of us within the Body of Christ (the Church) toward those with whom we share humanness.
It is the obligation which stems naturally or, rather, supernaturally, from the very obligation that prompted the first witnesses of the Resurrection to bear witness to the Risen Lord before the whole world, always at high personal cost; even at the cost of their very life.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 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. Acts 10:40-43
The first thing of which we have to become aware is the weight of this duty to bear witness. It is about that unique and unrepeatable event in history that changed the whole world by changing the whole outlook on life and on the future of each individual. It is not a call to witnessing about an idea, a project, the attempt to realize a grandiose dream, the implementation of a revolutionary ideology, but about something visible, concrete—and totally real.
It is about the only person, the only human being who defeated death and with whom real, earthy people with their feet solidly set on the ground ate and drank; whom they touched and talked to after he returned from the realms of death, never to die again.
The implications of our call to bear witness to the Risen Lord with our life are such that they demand a transformation of every aspect of our existence. Nothing can be left to improvisation or to a partial, lukewarm engagement of our inner-self. Nor could we succeed in convincing anyone if we were not thoroughly filled with genuine love for Christ and totally “sold” to him and to his cause.
Why such an all-encompassing commitment? It is because Christ’s disciples are exposed, daily, to the attacks waged by the forces of evil, darkness and death just as is everyone else. Actually, Christ’s disciples are the favorite targets of the forces that Jesus defeated in his Resurrection. Every day, depression, dejection, a defeatist spirit, discouragement, a gloomy outlook on reality obscure the radiance of the Resurrection for too many people. Every day, some of them decide to throw in the towel and quit their battle. Every day, some of them decide to stop believing, stop fighting, and stop hoping.
Now, if we take into account that we, too, experience from time to time moments of hesitation, discouragement, bewilderment and frustration, we realize that Christ, the Risen Lord, has to become much more real, much more present, much more part of our existence to overcome those trying times that are unavoidable. We take heart from the gradual transformation operated by the Risen Christ on his first three witnesses: Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple.
Confronted by the total and unrepeatable event of the Resurrection, they did not understand, at first, what the meaning of rising from the dead was; nor could they grasp right away how the Resurrection was affecting their lives. Their transformation was gradual and completely the result of the love which they had for Jesus from the beginning.
It was the Holy Spirit, who purified and intensified their love for Jesus while turning them into bold, fearless and very generous witnesses under the most daunting and difficult circumstances. St. Paul’s transformation operated by the Holy Spirit was, instead, much quicker and, therefore, more intense to change him from a rabid persecutor of those who believed in the Risen Lord to the most dedicated and effective preacher in the history of the Church. In our second reading, St. Paul gives us valuable suggestions on how to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those affected by the forces of evil, darkness and death.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. Colossians 3:2
This suggestion could not be any simpler yet any more challenging. The things of this earth can be contaminated, obscured, bent out of shape, twisted around, given a convenient spin, spoiled, destroyed, causing us frustration, disappointment, apprehension, fear, anguish, restlessness and confusion. And, yet, they are so real, so close to us, so imposing that we are forced to react quickly to them. While the things from above, including those that surround the Resurrection, alas, are oftentimes appearing ethereal, elusive, remote and, thus, “optional,” less compelling, requiring less than a prompt reaction on our part.
However, our faith keeps telling us that the supernatural call to bear witness to the Resurrection before those who are not yet exposed to its radiance and light compels us to stay the course set by the Holy Spirit. That decision would make us not only familiar with the things from above, but would also make us into people that are, so to speak, supernaturally hard-wired to use the things from above to change this world and to reinterpret reality in light of the Resurrection.
Picture with me, if you will, what the Risen Christ envisions for us all: we can be empowered to counteract anything negative and destructive with faith, courage, realistic optimism, boldness, resolve, unstoppable drives, creativity, confidence and hope bordering on certainty of repeated successes.
I cannot think of a loftier, more constructive contribution that we, as witnesses of the Resurrection, could give to this troubled world in which we live.