Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Strong Faith in His Name

By Beth DeCristofaro

(Peter) addressed the people, "You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made (the crippled man) walk by our own power or piety? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate's presence when he had decided to release him.  You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong, and the faith that comes through it has given him this perfect health, in the presence of all of you. (Acts 3:12-16)

While they were still speaking about this, (Jesus) stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified … Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, "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."  (Luke 24: 36-37, 45-48)

Jesus Passed Through Death,  Stephen B Whatley
It’s disconcerting to have someone ask “How are you?” while they walk right past without pausing.  “Uhhhh, ok” you might have time to mumble.  “Have a nice day” is an afterthought spoken without minding to whom we speak while “take care” might be said with a real wish to wish it but is mouthed without attention.  Much of what we say to each other is said only to say something because we want to connect but don’t know how.

Jesus, however, doesn’t worry what others think nor does he fumble for words to fill the space. “Peace be to you,” Jesus says.  “Do not be afraid,” He comforts Mary at the tomb.  There is no need for an uproar or fear even living under Roman oppression, even traumatized by watching a beloved innocent be tortured to death.  No need for uproar or fear because The One who acted not on his own but on behalf of and to display God’s glory is with us.  No need for an uproar or fear because the greatest, the deepest reason to fear has been conquered.  Death is vanquished once and for all in His resurrection. No reason for an uproar or fear even in the suffering of the human condition.

During Lent, we practice self-denial not out of hatred for the world which, after all, is of God.  We practice self-denial to reveal the truth that we are too often governed by our own egos.  We are not aware of the presence of Jesus standing in our intimate midst saying to us “Peace” and “Do not fear.”  The joy of resurrection gifted by Jesus is obstructed.   Peter and John knew and proclaimed that power, their peace, their confidence was rooted and sprung from Jesus in their midst, not in personal limited human identity.  Once “startled and terrified”, men and women whose faith was strong in His name changed the world with their witness.

“In his Regina Coeli address on Easter Monday, Pope Francis preached about how Christ’s resurrection brought hope and life into the world, and how we are called to live that out in how we act toward our brothers and sisters around the world.  ‘In the midst of events that afflict the world,’ he said April 17, ‘in the midst of worldliness that is distant from God,’ we are called to show solidarity, welcoming and peace to people. These are only human signs that we can give, he continued, but ‘inspired and sustained by faith in the Risen Lord,’ we can gain effectiveness ‘well beyond our capacity.’” [i]  

How do we display strong faith and radiate God’s Peace toward our brothers and sisters around the world?

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