Acts 5:17-26; Ps 34:2-9; Jn 3:16-21: The LORD saves us from all our distress. When we are truly poor he hears our cries, our groans, our sighs. The LORD makes us radiant with Easter Joy. The brightness of our witness to Christ, the Risen Lord, cannot be denied. The works of darkness and despair will not overwhelm our testimony to Christ. We are full of praise; we bless the LORD at all times. Such rejoicing is not a threat to the lowly and powerless; they hear it and they are glad. We have no need to lord it over anyone, even the most lowly are not put down by our gladness. We do not gain our delight from putting someone in their place, even when they are out of earshot. As a matter of fact, our exaltation becomes an invitation to the lowly and downcast. “Glorify the LORD with me, let us together extol his name.” Such a fellowship of Easter Joy opens us to the Lord’s responses to our prayer and we are delivered from all our fears. Even the fear of rejection and persecution do not paralyze us. We gaze upon the face of Christ and our faces never blush with shame; we are radiant with joy! Our every prayer is heard, and our every distress is snatched away by the Triumphant Christ. Indeed, the angel of the LORD builds a camp around us because we fear the LORD. We are daily invited to taste and see how good the LORD is. We are daily blessed at the Table of the Lord Christ because he is our refuge and our strength. Like the earliest believers no prison can hold us captive. Indeed, because we love the truth we come into the light of the Risen Christ and all our works are clearly seen as done in God.
Christ himself suffered rejection and was imprisoned. The disciples likewise suffered such rejection and captivity. The high priest and his companions, the full senate of the children of Israel, were hell-bent on silencing the witness of the early church. They were jealous and envious of their fellow Jews who were living in the Light of the Risen Christ. They saw this new way as a deviation from the Torah. They did not see the Lord Jesus as the Living Torah. They did not see his teaching as the fulfillment of their expectations, and this group of disciples endangered their authority and their power. Try though they might to crush this new development of faith, they could not reign in these rebels. Even their secure prison was insecure. Even their guards were astounded by the freedom of these children of the New Israel. Direct opposition to the followers of Christ seemed to be futile. What could they do now? They arrested them again, but they acted very cautiously because they were afraid of being stoned by the people. The every day Jew, the common man, the lowly and the poor were attracted to the freedom and gladness of this new movement. Even today jealousy and envy motivate the enemies of the Church. Our faith is a great threat to many who have power in secular society. They permit believers to have faith as long as it doesn’t make demands on them. The allow us to believe as long as we do not challenge the status quo. When we question or oppose the values of those in power, we become a threat. When we stand up for the right to life or the value of traditional family, we become dangerous radicals. Indeed, we are seen as more dangerous than terrorists. Only if we rely upon the light of Christ will we survive the darkness that threatens. Only if we trust in the angel of the LORD will we be released from the prisons of insignificance. The struggle in which we find ourselves today is not unlike the sufferings of our earliest members. When they were released from prison, they were commanded to continue their brave witness. Are we willing to teach the truth of the gospel? Are we willing to speak in the public forum a word that truly liberates everyone who is imprisoned in the lies of our society?
Christ Jesus is the only-begotten Son of the Father, and everyone who believes in him will not parish but will have eternal life. This is the Good News of our faith. This is the Good News that every human heart longs to hear. This beautiful and blessed life is does not have to end in oblivion and obscurity. Indeed, we are summoned by the Lord Jesus to share in his very life, eternal life. Christ did not come to condemn the world, and we do not shout out in judgment on the world. We do, however, stand in direct and deliberate opposition to the lies that imprison the human heart and mind. We cannot not stand firm against the lies that rob the heart of hope and snatch truth from the mind. Such a bold Easter Witness will condemn us. We cannot expect those who find refuge in the darkness to welcome the light we bear. People still prefer darkness; many still take refuge in the shadows of illusion and denial. Human freedom has been reduced to the right to choose. As long as we can choose anything we want, we are convinced of our freedom. However, the human heart was made for God, and until we are filled with God we are restless and bound by many fears. When the LORD sent his only-begotten Son to show us the Way because he is the truth and the life, we stubbornly resist this divine light. The glory of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus is too bright for our world comfortable with the shadows of illusion and darkness of lies. An encounter with the light we bear would only expose the folly of the status quo. To stand in opposition to such power is only possible because we have come into the light and bear witness to the truth. It is the truth of our love, unconditional and liberating, that will set our brothers and sisters free. Our Easter Season summons us to a renewed commitment to the One who has died and risen so that we might have life, life in abundance and life forever. Again at this liturgy we are invited to taste and see that the LORD is good, and we are made in His Image and Likeness. This is the freedom of the Children of God. This is the dignity to which every child of Adam and Eve is summoned.