We know that in every court case witnesses play a crucial role. Without the presence of at least one credible witness, the case will surely be lost. The task of the witness is simple. The person is to supply evidence that supports the claims being made. A witness needs many qualities, but the most important ones are courage and truthfulness.
Christ said that he too needs witnesses. Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. Before returning to the right hand of his Father, Jesus told his disciples, “You will be my witnesses.” The task of witnessing to Jesus has been handed down through the ages. The need for witnesses is just as crucial today as it was 2000 years ago. After all, what good is the Word of God if we don’t have living examples who witness to it? How can we lead people to Jesus Christ if they don’t see people living what Christ has taught?
Before leaving his apostles, Jesus promised that they would receive power from on high to help them be bold and courageous witnesses. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost the apostles experienced a radical transformation. They burst out of the Upper Room in Jerusalem, and by word and deed, bore incredible witness to the Lord Jesus. Nothing could stop them. They were on fire for Jesus Christ and the Gospel!!!
Now the mission has been entrusted to us. We have received the same power from on high to help us burn with zeal for Christ and the Gospel. It is an awesome privilege but a daunting task in an age when the values of the world are promoted as the norms for happiness over the values of the Kingdom of God. So, how are we to witness?
First, there is the witness of words. We witness by professing our faith, what we believe. To be bold in telling others, this is what Jesus taught. To have the courage to both explain and defend the Word of God, which is stronger than any two-edged sword. To remind people that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching.”
Second, there is the witness of one’s life. Nature is our teacher. Trees witness to life just by being. Tall, straight, motionless, they are silent yet eloquent witnesses to life. Flowers bear witness to beauty simply by being what they are. And Christians bear witness by what we are. The most eloquent sermon is the silent sermon of example. People need to see the Gospel in action.
The witness of a Christian life is more powerful than any argument. There are those whose lives bear radiant witness to the transforming power of faith. In their lives the faith is a flame burning brightly. The person who lives a simple life, taking Christ as a model, is a sign of God and of transcendent realities.
The evangelical witness the world finds most appealing is that of concern for people and of charity towards the poor, the weak, and those who suffer. The generosity underlying this attitude and these actions stands in marked contrast to human selfishness and self-centeredness. A commitment to peace, to justice, and to human rights, is a witness to the Gospel. Certainly in our age, Pope Francis is a wonderful model of this way of witnessing.
Jesus looks at each one of us and says, “YOU will be my witness!” Are you?
– Fr. Dennis, June 2, 2019