Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:45–48 (Year B)
This was the final appearance to the disciples as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. In this appearance, Jesus showed the Apostles His hands and His feet, explained to them that He had to suffer, die and rise, as was foretold by the prophets. He exhorted them to be “witnesses of these things,” He explained that very soon the Holy Spirit would come from the Father, and then walked with them to Bethany where He ascended to Heaven. These, the final earthly words of Jesus, set forth the mission of these Apostles as well as the mission of all of us.
“You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus said. What things? The Apostles were to be witnesses to the Paschal Mystery: Jesus’ suffering, death and Resurrection. The proclamation of these truths are the central mission of Jesus’ Apostles and all of us.
How often do you think about the Paschal Mystery? Perhaps you have heard those words but do not fully understand what they are. What is the “Paschal Mystery?” The Paschal Mystery was what Jesus told the Apostles to be witnesses to. They were to be witnesses to others that Jesus came from the Father, suffered death for our sins, rose from the dead to conquer sin and then ascended into Heaven to invite us to follow. This is the most central message of our faith.
Sometimes our Christian faith can be treated more like a book of “do good lessons” than as the saving truths of our redemption. Though it’s essential to understand the moral laws and the call to charitable works, we must always remember that the heart of the Gospel is about salvation. It’s about Jesus dying for our sins and rising victorious so that we can enter the glories of Heaven. We do not enter Heaven simply because we are good people; rather, we are able to enter Heaven only because of the saving act of the Paschal Mystery. And though this saving act calls us to a life of charitable service to others, that charitable work is more of an effect of salvation than it is the central purpose of our faith.
The Gospel passage quoted above also says that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Therefore, if we, like the Apostles, are to understand the Gospel and the central purpose of Jesus’ life and our own lives, then we must allow Him to open our minds also. We must allow Jesus to reveal to us the Paschal Mystery, because it is not something we can comprehend or figure out on our own.
Reflect, today, upon how clearly you understand the purpose of the life of Christ. Do you understand the mysteries of His human life, suffering, death and Resurrection? Do you understand how these truths of our faith must change you at your very core? And do you understand your duty to be a witness to these mysteries of faith to others? Sit with these questions and allow them to sink in deeply so that you may join the Apostles in both the gift of redemption and the call to evangelize the world.
My saving Lord, Your life, death and Resurrection is the greatest gift ever given. Through this Paschal Mystery, we are set free from sin and become children of Your Father in Heaven. Open my mind to more fully understand this great gift and give me the grace I need to become Your witness to the world in need. Jesus, I trust in You.