GARCIA-LUENSE: He is risen! Go! Tell!

April 27, 2021

Photo by Thanti Nguyen/Unsplash

Now nearly halfway through our celebration of this Easter season, we have heard clearly and often the proclamation that He is risen.

The tomb is empty, and the chains of death are broken. We have been reminded once more of the heart of the Christian message. But I wonder, at this Easter midpoint, if it is enough for us to merely know these things.

Perhaps a better question is: What comes next?

I suggest that the Gospels themselves give us the answer. In the resurrection accounts, there are two things people are told to do. Go. Tell.

Whether it is the angelic figure at the empty tomb (Mt 28:5-7, Mk 16:5-7) or Jesus Himself (Mt 28:9-10, Jn 20:17), these two commands are given explicitly. Interestingly, while Luke’s Gospel does not contain these two imperatives, twice (Lk 24:9, Lk 24:33-35) we get stories about people (the women, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus) who went and told.

This missionary imperative is also in keeping with another liturgical tradition of the Easter season: the semi-continuous reading of the Acts of the Apostles. The usual practice of taking a reading from the Old Testament is suspended in favor of this Scriptural book that is otherwise nearly absent from the lectionary. Concentrating on a book dedicated to the missionary activities of the apostles in the Easter season complements the resurrection narratives in giving a particularly missionary focus.

This culminates in the two great feasts that conclude the Easter Season. On the Ascension, in Years A and B when we hear from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, there is an explicit command by Jesus to go out into the entire world. In Year C, with the Gospel of Luke, the command is not as explicit, though Jesus does name them as witnesses and tells them to remain in Jerusalem “until you are clothed in power from on high.” This leads directly to the final feast in the celebration of Easter: Pentecost.

Every year we have the reading from the Acts of the Apostles that features the disciples boldly speaking out in the streets. While the lectionary cuts off the reading with the wonderment of the crowd, Acts continues with Peter giving the first public proclamation outside the circle of the disciples of the Kerygma, the death and resurrection of Jesus.

And so the entire season of Easter is designed to teach us not merely the truth of the resurrection, but that, as witnesses to the power of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ in our lives, we have a mission to go and tell, to live as witnesses, to share this message.

And we are not required to do this all on our own. The promised gift of the Holy Spirit is clearly what empowered Peter and empowers us. Indeed, the Church teaches that among the effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation is precisely the empowerment to proclaim this message.

Now, this does not mean that all of us are called to stand on street corners and preach to passers-by. But it does mean that our identity as a baptized Easter people includes a call to be missionary disciples. The task of evangelization, the spreading of the good news, is not for missionaries in distant lands only. The task of catechesis, of echoing what we ourselves have received, is not just for those who teach faith formation in the parish.

How we engage in these missionary tasks will certainly vary depending on the particular circumstances of our lives. Nonetheless, in order to be true to our identities, we cannot shirk this task. Whether it is with neighbors or co-workers, classmates or teammates, or even within our own families, we have a responsibility to share this message, trusting that the Holy Spirit will use our best efforts and intentions far beyond our own natural power. 

Brian Garcia-Luense is an associate director with the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.