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Be active witnesses of Jesus’ life-giving presence in the world

Bishop Francis Alleyne

Bishop Francis Alleyne OSB of Georgetown has given the following Easter message via the Catholic Standard publication: My Easter greeting to all the faithful and to all people of goodwill. Every time we participate in the celebration of Mass, the celebrant, at the consecration, says the words, “Do this in memory of me”, words of Jesus to His disciples at the Last Supper.

The Synoptic Gospels (Mt, Mk, Lk) and St Paul’s letters give us these words of Jesus in their narrative of those last hours that Jesus spent with His disciples.

In the Gospel of John those words are implied in connection with the washing of the feet when Jesus instructs His disciples to wash each other’s feet as He did to them and that later they will come to a fuller understanding of what this gesture means. An important operative word of Jesus to His disciples is “do”.

Already, in preceding chapters in the Gospels we are told of where Jesus took twelve of His disciples and made them apostles and sent them out to engage people and bring them peace, healing and the awareness of the closeness of God’s Kingdom saying to them “the harvest is rich, but the labourers are few” (Mt 10:1 ff, Mk 3:13 ff, Lk 9:1 ff).

There is an upgrade from disciple to apostle, from following/learning to engaging and giving and ministering. That is Easter. Jesus specified what had to be done and how it had to be done.

In the last moments that Jesus spends with His disciples/apostles, anticipating His separation from them, He passes the mantle, entrusts them with full responsibility to “do”; do what He did, and do it in His memory.

The call, the mandate, the identity of the disciple and apostle is doing. Christianity is synonymous with action.

Memory/memorial/remembrance is another prominent and pertinent word that Jesus chooses and includes in His final discourse. What He asks of His disciples is that they would do what He did with the same spirit, with the same passion as if He was living in them. St Paul would later on say, “I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

That memory/memorial/remembrance is our surrender, at the same time, our desire to walk with firm steps on the path that Jesus Himself walked.

Another very special word in Jesus’ discourse is “covenant”. As the disciples with Jesus recalled the Passover in which the people of Israel with Moses and in ritual declared their belongingness and commitment to their God, Jesus, with ritual, establishes a New Covenant; one that would seal the communion and commitment between God and His people by doing, doing the ritual frequently but very importantly doing all that Jesus did in the same manner, in the same spirit with which Jesus Himself reached out to and encountered His brothers and sisters.

Easter is always a celebration of life; new life, life greater than death, life to the full. It is celebrating the expansiveness of life, and the things that we are called to do to bring this about.

Jesus’ encounter with people always left them in a better state, a better place; healed and free and reinstated with fuller access to opportunity. We, as followers and disciples bearing the name Christian, are called to do this, with commitment and resolve, in memory of Him.

My Easter wish to all is that our feasts and days of Easter into Pentecost and beyond will bring us to deeper knowledge of and insight into all that Jesus did and that we, in covenant and in memory of Him, will increase in being active witnesses of His life-giving presence in this world.