The exception is Jesus Christ whose Sermon on the Mount is found in my book of speeches. Because of his resurrection, Jesus is still alive and present among us in a much more powerful way than before his death. His words are not just whispers from the grave. He continues to speak and act in the circumstances of every age, transforming lives and directing the course of history.
In the Acts of the Apostles, which is read continuously in the liturgy of the Easter season, we see how the early Christian missionaries understood themselves primarily as witnesses to the resurrection (see Acts 1:22). They were focused, not just on what Jesus did and said in the past, but on what he is doing now and saying in the present. For them, the risen Jesus is continuing to act and speak in and through their mission. Peter says to a paralytic, 'Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you' (Acts 9:34). Paul understands his preaching as the words of the risen Jesus proclaiming light to both Jews and Gentiles (see Acts 26:23).
Too many leaders today acquire and retain power by appealing to peoples' prejudices, fears and self-interests. Too many are trying to direct the course of history with a vision of a world where trade agreements favour wealthier nations, walls are built to keep people out, difference in culture and religion is seen as a threat, and nature is subdued to serve human wants. The risen Jesus, exalted as 'Leader and Saviour' (Acts 5:31), continues to proclaim and implement a very different vision. He is promoting God's vision of universal communion in which peoples relate in love as brothers and sisters in one human family, and also care for the created earth as our common home. And he is seeking followers through whom he continues his life-giving mission today.
Faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges, mission can be a daunting experience for us. But the resurrection reminds us that Jesus has overcome the forces of evil and is now renewing the face of the earth with his gift of new life. That is what inspires and enables us to engage in mission with confidence, hope and joy.
Fr Tom O'Reilly
Fr Tom, a scripture scholar, worked as a Columban missionary in Pakistan and was Director of the Region of Britain.
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