The Gift of Freedom – The 3rd Sunday of Easter
The events of today’s Gospel take place immediately after the account of the Road to Emmaus. “Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” And, just as powerfully, he was present with them. Once again, he assured his friends of peace. It’s a message that never wears thin.
We all seek peace, either in a time of being frightened or just living the realities of life. “Peace be with you.” To prove that it is he, he shows them the wounds in his hands and feet, and he takes a piece of broiled fish and eats it in their presence. He ends by reminding his followers that they are “witnesses of these things.”
Post-Resurrection and post-Emmaus, you and I are witnesses of these things. How have we seen and experienced the Resurrection? Where have you and I witnessed the power of Christ alive? Where can I echo the statement from Mary Magdalene in John’s Gospel: I have seen the Lord.
I was asked on the occasion of my quarter-century of ordained ministry, What are you most grateful for? That was a few years ago. It is now more than 32 years after my ordination. The response then, and now, has to do with gratitude at witnessing people coming to a place of freedom. It is that freedom that I have witnessed so often.
It is a beautiful thing to see women and men set free from their fears and insecurities and worries, to find peace amidst the turmoil of their life, to make a positive decision about their life path, or to be reconciled with difficult parts of their personal history.
I have witnessed this in the ministry of spiritual accompaniment, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and in casual conversations with friends and strangers. It’s in those moments that I have experienced Christ alive. That is where I have seen Christ.
How else do we witness the power of Christ alive? The gift of freedom I mentioned is not reserved solely for individuals. It can also happen through the healing of a family or community, as they pray for the gift of being set free from the prison of reliving the painful moments of their history. Such freedom is also experienced by nations, ethnic groups and cultural groups as they rise above an event or their treatment by others.
In his exercises on the Resurrection of the Lord, St Ignatius of Loyola suggests that we consider the divinity of Christ, and how it “appears and manifests itself … through its true and most holy effects.” The freedom I have described would be a clear illustration of the effects. The Resurrection is effective, in that it makes a difference in someone’s life. Has it made a difference in your life? Where do you see the Lord?