Lk 24:35-48 Joy
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Jesus said to his Apostles, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
It couldn’t be any clearer. The Lord said it himself. We are to proclaim Christ crucified and risen from the dead. Surprise! We are to encourage repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Surprise! We are to preach in his name to all the nations, starting with the capital that put the Lord to death and would love to put his followers to death. Surprise! This is not good news. This is GREAT news! Surprise!
The saying, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is an old saying; old people know it well. It is what keeps them young of heart and soul. It has taken me a while to believe it myself. But I have finally come to realize the wisdom and Christianity of this expression. Christians are called to be honey. We bring people together so that we can bring them to Christ. We are called to give joy to the world. Who could argue with that? We are called to give hope to the world. Who could argue with that? We are called to give Jesus to the world? Unfortunately, far too many will argue with that!
Can’t I be good and can’t I do good without being a Christian? I don't think so. Is it possible to plow a field without a plow? Yes. Is it possible to hammer a nail without a hammer? Yes. But is it possible to love without love? No. Is it possible to forgive without the grace of forgiveness? No. Is it possible to be a Christian without The Christ? No. How do I know? Because I think we can all say that we have all tried it before. We have all tried to love without real love. We have all tried to forgive without true forgiveness. Yes, I can forgive someone pretty easily the first time he/she offends me. But eventually I will hit my limit, I will finally say, “Enough! That’s it! I’m done! No more chances. I’m through with you!” What Christ teaches us, by his very own life, is that there is no limit, not even death, and death on a cross. There is no limit to giving and forgiving. There is no enemy that cannot be loved.
On April 5th, it was reported that Patrick Greene, a lifelong atheist, converted to Christianity. Mr. Greene made himself known to the Christian community down in Henderson County, Texas, when he threatened to sue the county for allowing a Nativity scene to be displayed on public land. Not too long after his complaint, his doctor informed him that he was losing his sight and that he would eventually go blind. To his surprise, the Christian community came together, prayed and collected money for him. And to his greater surprise, the response was very generous. Surprise!
“Love your enemies.” I know what you are thinking. We can’t do this! Not today! Not in our world filled with terror! We can’t live in this world like that! I admit…to think like this is a very strong temptation. It is so logical. But we must also admit that we have never really tried it either. How far can we go? That is the question that has yet to be answered. How far did Christ go? We know the answer. All the way.
There is nothing more beautiful than a smile, and there is nothing more surprising than a smile when there is not a glimmer of hope. There is nothing more beautiful than to rise from the dead. And there is nothing more surprising than to surprise those who put us to death! Jesus said, "You are witnesses to these things."
“May your people exult for ever, O God, in renewed youthfulness of spirit…” Today’s opening prayer is a beautiful reminder that although Christians may grow old physically, we never grow old spiritually. Later in life we may have difficulty walking and talking, but we have no excuse to love less, give less or forgive less. Our founder does not permit this to happen. The resurrection never grows old. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His message, his words, his life, his mission does not grow old. He is our fountain of youth. The resurrection is our source of joy. The resurrection keeps us forever young. We have so much to offer and so little time to do it. We have something that the world desperately seeks: JOY. We have joy, a supernatural resource that is in short supply.
Heavenly Father, you fill us with the joy of your presence. May we be a source of joy to those around us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.