"We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
"They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.
"To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name." (Acts of the Apostles, from the readings for Easter 2012)
These words of the apostle Peter were spoken more than two millennia ago. Yet they resonate for us still, especially as we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.
For St. Peter, chosen by the Lord himself, a born leader who preached with zeal, these were more than words. He dedicated his life to bearing witness for Christ Jesus and, in the end, died a martyr for Christ Jesus.
Easter reminds us not only of the indescribable glory that is the Lord’s rising from the dead and what it means to our own immortality in heaven with God, but also that we, too, were chosen to bear witness for Christ.
How can we do this? Not all of us have the strength of will and sheer stubbornness of St. Peter or the eloquence of St. Paul or Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And many of us likely would feel uncomfortable standing up to preach about Jesus to a crowd of people.
Yet there are other ways each of us can bear witness to Christ and proclaim the Easter message of hope and love.
In a recent address in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said that "the gift of (Christ’s) love has been entrusted to us, to every Christian. It is a gift to be passed on to others, through the witness of our lives."
His predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, famously described Christians by saying, "We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song!"
So we can bear witness to Christ through the way we live our lives — by practicing the virtues of Christ so that others see his radiance in our lives. We can bear witness to Christ through our attitude of hope: by trying to see the hallelujahs in the music of life rather than in the sour notes.
We can bear witness to Christ by our daily behavior, by treating, as Christ did, our children, our family members and people we meet truly as the precious jewels that they are; by daily committing ourselves to treat each other with compassion, respect and, yes, forgiveness.
We can bear witness to Christ through tolerance of those different from us, seeking not to judge others but looking for the Christ in them.
We can witness by acts of faith and belief both public and private, through our prayers for others in need, and by attending Mass every week to be part of the community of believers that Christ wants us to be. "Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I shall also be," he said.
Jesus reached out to the downtrodden among us, those in the throes of poverty, those mourning over a loss, those incapacitated and disheartened by illness, and those enslaved by addiction.
Do we reach out to people in need as Christ would?
Easter reminds us not only of the supreme gift Christ gave us, but our obligations to him as true disciples. Let each of us strive to bear witness to Christ on this glorious day and on all the days to follow.
Peace to all, and Happy Easter!