There was a priest in my home parish, who during the whole Easter time greeted the parishioners at the end of Mass by saying: “Christ is risen!” The proper answer to this greeting, he explained once, was: “He is truly risen!” Once, a friend of mine, during a meeting of our youth group asked him: “Why do you say ‘Christ is risen’ during Easter? We all know he is risen.” His answer to that was: “I know we all know it, but when someone proclaims to you that Christ is risen, this announcement has the power to change your life right there and then.” The words of this priest stuck with me. I did not understand them fully at the time. But, from my own experience; after years of formation to the priesthood, and from the exercise of my ministry as a priest, I have seen that he was right in referring to the essential character of the proclamation of the Good News. It is an instrument for offering the life of the risen Christ to the people. Today’s readings clearly illustrate the centrality of the proclamation of the Word of God for the life of the Church.
In the first reading we see how the Holy Spirit reveals that Paul and Barnabas are to be consecrated for an important mission, when he says: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Immediately after, it becomes evident that the work entrusted to them was to proclaim the word of God. That was the preeminent mission given to those who had been sent by God to continue His work on earth: to announce the love of God, manifested in the death and resurrection of Christ.
Proclaiming the Word
It always amazes me how clearly and simply the Acts of the Apostles shows how, from the moment the Holy Spirit descends upon them, the apostles begin to bring the gift of the kerygma i.e., the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, to all the nations. In like manner, Saint Paul is fully aware that he had been called specifically, for the mission to proclaim the word of God (1 Corinthians 1:17), and to offer in this way, the gift of faith and salvation to the people (1 Corinthians 1:21; Romans 10:17). Any other work was subservient to this mission or was a fruit of it. It is even more amazing to see how such a simple announcement had the power to affect a total transformation in the lives of the people. In fact, those who accepted it shared in the fruits of this announcement: to share in the love of God and to experience total communion.
The Light of Life
Where does the power of this announcement come from? How is it that just because someone comes and tells me: “Christ is risen, he loves you the way you are,” my life can change so dramatically, as it changed for those men and women in the early Church? The answer is given to us in today’s Gospel: Christ came into the world, as the sent one of the Father, to offer us the light of his life, and to call us to live in love and communion with God, with ourselves and with one another. He is the light that dispels every darkness.
As we continue celebrating this time of Easter, I encourage all of us to open ourselves to the proclamation of the Good News, and to accept it in our lives. In this way, the joy of the risen Christ will be the guiding force of all our actions.