The impression I get from the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter is that Jesus says to each of us, “I want to be on stage in your life wherever you go and in whatever you do.”
In the first reading, Peter points out that the main character in their midst is the invisible Jesus Christ. He is the one engendering such a fervent and furious ferment.
Peter says, “If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in His name this man stands before you healed.”
He is really saying, “Don’t look at us. Look at the person before you who was healed. We don’t have that kind of power. The One you crucified and laid in a tomb has escaped from that tomb, and in His name this man was healed.”
Peter wants to show that there is an invisible person in their midst who has miraculous power and touches the hearts of the people. In effect, Peter says that the invisible one in their midst is “the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the corner stone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”
In this case, Peter and John have been selected to be the stage on which Jesus reveals Himself as the savior and healer. Jesus is delighted that both now courageously witness to His presence. They give this witness to those who handed Jesus over to be crucified, and it’s obvious that Jesus wants His crucifiers to hear this message, acknowledge Him as their savior and repent and be saved. The healed man is the witness of Jesus that can’t be explained away or buried. It’s a fruit of the resurrection, leading others to be saved through Jesus.
In the second reading, John writes, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” Isn’t it true that children readily reflect the values of their parents? As children of God, we are called to reflect the values of God. Obedience to His teachings inspires and edifies others to seek God as the source of all goodness. We model for others what it is to be an evangelizer for Jesus. By embracing the virtuous life, which flows from the Gospel, we radiate God’s goodness to others. The behavior that flows from Christ’s action in our lives changes the lives of others.
In the Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” He invites us to buy into His model and surrender to Him our lives for the sake of the Gospel.
Just what does it mean to surrender our lives to Jesus for the sake of the Gospel? It simply means that as we prayerfully reflect on the Gospels and study the Church’s teachings, our lives change. When in prayerful reflection we sense Christ inviting us to modify our behaviors, that changed behavior is a revelation to others of Christ at work in us.
What Christ is doing in our hearts may escape our attention, but it catches the attention of others who are seeking Christ. We provide the stage through which He reveals Himself to others.
Here’s a clear and concrete demonstration. Those who participated in the great Holy Week mysteries in the Cathedral Basilica, with Archbishop Carlson presiding, saw that the archbishop was the stage on which Christ revealed Himself. They didn’t see Archbishop Carlson’s personality. Instead, they saw Christ presiding in his countenance, eyes, voice and movements of his body. It was Christ going through His passion, reaching out to us with His love, consolation and gratitude that we were “waiting one hour with Him.”
Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” When it comes to being Christ’s disciples, we are the stage, and Christ is the actor in us and through us. In our daily prayerful rehearsal, He gives us the lines to express His goodness throughout each day. “Do not worry what you are to say in that hour, for I will put words on your lips to which no one can take exception to or contradict.”
Yes, daily prayer prepares our hearts to be Christ’s revelation to others. This is the model Jesus Himself gave us. “Rising up early in the morning He went to a lonely place to pray.” He always wanted to be with the Father before He ministered to the people.
All things being equal, prayer early in the morning seems to be the most effective because it prepares our hearts for all of our encounters. It may be a real challenge to get started, but because it’s so effective, we come to the end of the day less exhausted and ready to get to bed earlier so as to arise again for preparation for the new day. If we want to be an evangelist for Jesus, we cannot miss the early morning rehearsal.
What He says to us in silent prayer, He wants to be His revelation to others.