Called to be prophetic witnesses

14 April 2024 3rd Sunday Easter, Year B

To his Nazi captors, Polish priest and Conventual Franciscan friar Maximilian Kolbe was prisoner number 16670. But to Franciszek Gajowniczczek, his fellow inmate in Auschwitz, Maximilian was much more and his sacrifice would change his life forever.


In late July 1941, a prisoner escape in Auschwitz prompted the deputy camp commander to order the deaths of 10 men to deter future escape attempts. When Maximilian heard Franciszek, who was one of the ten selected, cry out for his wife and children, he volunteered to take his place. Franciszek was reunited with his wife after the war and lived to be 93. He said that, as long as he lived, he would tell everyone about Maximilian’s courageous act of love.


Jesus’s dying and rising again, like Maximilian’s act of sacrifice and love, was not only a moving act of humanity; it was also a prophetic witness of God’s redemptive love.


The gospel reading today describes a vivid post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus. The disciples met Jesus on the road but only recognised him in the breaking of the bread. Then, quite dramatically, they see him standing in their midst and they were both terrified and overjoyed to see him again. He invites them to touch his hands and feet. He eats a piece of fish which they give him. 


At Easter, we enter into the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus. God, in his love for us, yearns to draw us into his presence for all eternity.  It is a profound paradox that his gift of eternal life and love entailed the ultimate sacrifice of an excruciating death on the cross.


For each of us, taking up our cross also means we are utterly vulnerable to pain, suffering and death. Nevertheless, with the grace of One who has also walked this path, we find strength to do the same. St John of the Cross likened suffering to being like a log in the fire. We are consumed by his love and are forever transformed by the experience. Our suffering becomes transformative if we yield ourselves entirely to God.


Yet, our faith is not only a source of grace in own individual suffering and death. It is a prophetic witness for all time. Jesus reminds his disciples that everything that was written about him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms has now been fulfilled, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached to all nations, beginning with Jerusalem.


We are called to rise with Jesus to a new life. In communion with our faith companions and all the saints from ages past, present and future, we are also called to be prophetic witnesses to his redemptive love. Clothed in our baptismal garments, anointed by holy oil, and redeemed by blood, let us proclaim this Easter promise to everyone. He is risen indeed.


Sophie Clements

© Majellan Media 2024

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