Saturday, April 21, 2012

3rd Sunday of Easter (B)
What Type of Knowledge? What Kind of Friend?
Picture: cc kaysha

Sisters and brothers, if I were to tell you that I know Lee Hsien Loong, would you be impressed? What about if I were to tell you that, not only do I know him, but that I am actually a friend of his? Imagine that. A friend of the Prime Minister of Singapore. Would that astonish you? Would that make you think more highly of me? Probably not, right? (And this is no reflection on our esteemed PM.) After all, everyone knows Lee Hsien Loong. And, especially now, after the PM has gotten onto Facebook, anyone can be his friend. Nothing really to be impressed about.

But what if I were to tell you that I knew him personally? Or that I was a close family friend? (I’m not, by the way. In case you’re wondering.) But just suppose I were to claim to be such. Claim to know him well. To be his good buddy. Would you be impressed? Well, it depends, right? It depends on whether I can back up my claim with some hard evidence. For example, if I could walk up to his doorstep, ring the doorbell, and be invited into his home, without being handcuffed and driven away in a police car, then maybe you’d be impressed. After all, talk is cheap. My claims will carry weight only to the extent that I’m able to show some visible signs to support them. Otherwise, I should just stick to friending the PM on Facebook.

In other words, there are different ways of knowing someone. And, these days, even of befriending them. There’s the kind of knowledge that sees only from afar. The kind that is relatively easy to have. And then there is the more personal, more intimate kind. The kind that takes time and effort. The kind that can change your life. And, if we want to tell which kind of knowledge, what kind of relationship, someone has, it’s not enough just to accept what that person says. We also need to look at the signs in that person’s life. This is true not just of knowing the Prime Minister of Singapore. It is true also of relating to the Risen Christ, whom we continue to celebrate in this joyous Easter season.

We see this quite clearly in our gospel reading for today. At this point in the story, the disciples have already received news that Jesus has risen from the dead. Earlier, the women had already discovered the empty tomb, where two men in brilliant clothes had informed them that the Lord had risen. Peter himself had also visited the tomb, and had found it empty. Then, of course, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had encountered Jesus, and rushed back to Jerusalem to inform the rest. So that, at this point in the story, it’s quite clear that the disciples already know that Jesus has risen. But what kind of knowledge is this? How deep is it? Is it the kind of knowledge that gains you entry into another’s house? Or is it the kind that only allows you to friend him on Facebook?

It is the signs that tell us. Notice, for example, the disciples’ reactions when Jesus comes among them. We’re told that they are reduced to a state of alarm and fright. Probably not unlike how I would feel if I were dragged away by the PM’s security detail. Alarm and fright. They weren’t expecting the Lord to show up. They had heard that he was risen. And yet, they didn’t really know it. Didn’t really believe it.

But all that begins to change. Jesus reassures them. He shows them the things that they need to see. He speaks to them the words that they need to hear. And their knowledge begins to deepen. The virtual reality of Facebook gradually gives way to the intimacy of true friendship. And there are concrete signs of this shift in knowledge. First of all, there is a recognition. The disciples begin to see that this person standing before them is really the Lord. But that’s not all. The recognition goes deeper. For we are told that Jesus opened their minds to understand the scriptures. Which means that the disciples finally recognise Jesus as the One whom the prophets had foretold so long ago. The one who was to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. The first sign then is the ability to recognise Jesus in the here and now.

And this first sign leads immediately to a second. Upon recognising Jesus, the disciples are filled with joy. The same people who just a moment ago had been paralysed with alarm and fright, now find themselves spontaneously rejoicing. Recognition and rejoicing. These are the first two signs that the knowledge of the Resurrection has begun to flood the disciples’ hearts. But there’s more. The other readings speak to us of two others signs of this deepening of knowledge.

In the second reading, John tells us that we can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. This is a third sign. True knowledge of the Resurrection is expressed in obedience to God, in such a way that God’s love comes to perfection in the one who obeys. And this growth towards perfection is made manifest in a fourth sign. The sign that Peter demonstrates in the first reading. After healing a paralysed man in the Temple, Peter bravely bears witness to the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. You killed the prince of life, he exclaims, God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses.

Recognition and rejoicing. Obedience and witnessing. These are four of the tell-tale signs that indicate to us the deep interior knowledge the disciples had of the Crucified and Risen Christ. These are the indicators that tell us that the disciples' knowledge was not just the product of superficial, second-hand information. Rather was it born of profound spiritual experience. Each of them had encountered the Lord in a very real, deeply personal way. And the effects were plain to see in their daily lives.

All of which might lead us to reflect on ourselves. On our own knowledge of Christ. To what extent do our own lives show forth the signs of the Resurrection? To what extent do we recognise the Lord in the people and situations that we encounter daily? To what extent do we rejoice in him, obey him, bear witness to him at each moment of every passing day? And if we find these signs lacking, then perhaps we need to truly make our own that beautiful prayer from our responsorial psalm: Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord. Lift up the light of your face, and teach us to see you more clearly, to love you more dearly, and to follow you more nearly, O loving and living Lord.

Sisters and brothers, on this 3rd Sunday of Easter, how well do we really know the Risen Christ today?


  1. Beautiful homily. The four tell-tale signs are a great summary. Just an aside: no one can 'friend' the PM on Facebook. He isn't there as a person. One can only Like his page.

  2. Fr. Chris, you've presented yet another light-hearted homily.

    Facebook is indeed one of the social media which connects people from all over the world together, be it to share their views on certain activity pages or just to increase the number of counts on their list, even Churches have their own Facebook page too, but not much inputs or activities on it. But, at times, too much "facebook" can be a nuisance too.

    The four tell-tale signs give a clear summary of how willing are we going to open our heart and mind to receive the Gospels more fully. Perhaps, the first sign of Ressurection which we could see in our own personal life is transformation, followed by compassion and giving without asking anything in return.


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