Their Testimony is True

 

April 24, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier   Thursday within the Octave of Easter

Reading (Acts 3:11-26)   Gospel (St. Luke 24:35-48)

 

Once again in the Gospel reading today, we have a clear indication of the weakness of the apostles. We had already been told that Jesus had appeared to Peter. We just heard the long account of Jesus’ appearance to the two disciples along the road to Emmaus and they have told the other apostles about all of this. Now Jesus appears and they all go out of their minds. They think they are seeing a ghost and they get terrified and upset. You can almost see the scene of the chaos as they get afraid. When Mary Magdalene saw the Lord, she did not recognize Him and then suddenly she did. When these two apostles saw the Lord, they did not recognize Him; and suddenly the appearance changed and they recognized Him. But still, there is the lack of belief. And the lack of belief was simply due to the lack of their own personal experience.

 

That is something we all need to be very cautious of as well. Do we somehow think we need proof through some kind of personal experience about the truths that are contained in the Gospels? When Our Lord looked at Thomas, He said, “You believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” There is no proof that is ever going to be sufficient if we cannot believe what is already there. For instance, we can read a history book and we can read about ancient Rome or ancient Greece or ancient Babylon or ancient Egypt or whatever kingdom you want to read about; we have no personal experience of it and yet we believe without questioning it because some historian said it. It is interesting that other historians do not always agree with what these historians claim, but because we are not experts at it, we believe what some expert has written.

 

Here we have eyewitness testimonies to what happened. We have testimonies of men who have clearly demonstrated in the pages they have written their own weakness. It is interesting to note that they do not try to make themselves out to look like heroes of some sort, like they were some sort of bastions of strength and faith right from the very beginning. They say of themselves that they did not understand. They say of themselves that they locked themselves in a room out of fear. They say of themselves today that they were terrified when Jesus appeared. These are not people who are trying to say, “Look at us! Look at how wonderful we are! We did this and you ought to as well.” Instead, what we get to look at is that they are no different than we are.  Thanks be to God, we can see that.

 

But the fact is that they were there, that they experienced it. Even Peter, speaking about what we just read, was able to say on Pentecost, “We are His witnesses. He has not appeared to everyone, but only to those chosen beforehand, those of us who ate and drank with Him after He had risen from the dead.” So we know, as Saint John says about himself, “There was an eyewitness who gives testimony to this and his testimony is true.” In ancient Israel, the testimony of two or three witnesses was considered to be law. We have the testimony of a dozen witnesses, and yet we waver and we doubt and we wonder. Somehow, we have got this idea that unless we have some kind of personal experience or proof we are not going to believe it. That is wrong.

 

We have to have the same kind of faith that Peter had, that this paralytic had, and that the people who heard Peter speak had when Peter looked at them and said, “Why are looking at us as though it was some kind of power of our own that did this? You must realize that this man stands before you perfectly whole in the Name of Jesus Christ, Whom you put to death!” The paralytic did not see Jesus He did not have an experience of the Lord, neither did the people in Solomon’s Portico. They took the word of Saint Peter and accepted it; they believed and were baptized. We have that same word, and more. We have the preaching of Paul; we have the letters of Peter; we have the letters of John; we have the four Gospels; we have Our Lord’s words Himself written down for us. We have no excuse.

 

Maybe we have not seen the Lord, but do you think if we did that we would be any different than the other apostles? They were terrified when they saw the Lord! Do not think it is going to be some great thing on our part if we see the Lord – we are probably going to faint! So it is not something that is going to prove anything to us. We do not need any proof. As the old saying goes: For those with faith, no proof is necessary; and for those without faith, no proof will be sufficient. If we do not want to believe, we are not going to – even if Jesus has appeared to us. He is right here in the Eucharist. He appears to us everyday, but if we cannot believe in His own words and if we cannot believe in the words of the eyewitnesses who were there, the fact that Our Lord would come and appear right before us, we would not believe that either.

 

We have the testimony of the witnesses who were there and we know that their testimony is true. They speak with an authority that no historian has ever had because they saw it, they lived it, their lives were changed by it, and they preached it. If we believe historians who lived thousands of years after the fact and tell us what ancient civilization was like, with far greater reason should we believe the history that these men have written because they were the eyewitnesses – and their testimony is true.

 

*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.