During the Octave of Easter we hear reports of the resurrection the Risen Christ appears to his friends one after another. His joy and happiness is infectious, replacing their initial fear with peace, and as we hear in Acts, drawing them together into a community, empowering them to witness through healing and preaching. St. Ignatius is always directing our attention toward Jesus. At the beginning of the fourth week of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius has us contemplate these “apparitions.” “Upon awakening,” he instructs, “think of the contemplation [you] are about to make, and endeavor to feel joyful and happy over the great joy and happiness of Christ our Lord.” When contemplating the appearance in today’s Gospel, I can get caught up with the disciples terror of encountering a beloved friend thought dead. Jesus, however, says “Peace be with you,” relax, it’s me, isn’t this great! In this joy-filled spirit, He reminds us to be witnesses, pointing out signs of life and love even in dark places and troubled times.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was just such a witness. April 4, 1968, his mission came to an abrupt end. Even when calling fellow citizens to account, to repentance for sinful and death-dealing racism, Dr. King’s motivation was not retribution or punishment, but a compelling vision of love and unity, justice and peace, for the whole human family. Within days of Dr. King’s assassination Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, including the Fair Housing Act, prohibiting housing discrimination based on race, religion, or national origin. Forty-five years later we live in the tension of “already and not yet.” Already many barriers between people and communities have fallen, yet so many more need to come down.
In the difficulties and trials of your own circumstances, how might you share Christ’s joy and happiness, witnessing to His resurrection?