We have finished the trek through Lent, 2016 and have come out the other side! Alleluia! This year’s journey may have been extraordinarily fruitful, for others flat, or maybe littered with crests and valleys. The beauty of Lent is that it reminds us of our weaknesses and total dependence on God and it leads our hearts to rejoice in our renewal as we celebrate the risen Lord. There is a line in a song that my children listen too that refers to Jesus as, “spring time in my heart,” which really captures the feeling of the liturgical Easter season. The chorus of the catchy tune declares, “Jesus, I adore you! You are love. Come live in me” (Come Live In Me, Gerald Montpetit, 2000). I find myself singing this song often, even though it is a song which was designed to teach children, as it appropriately illuminates the joy of knowing Jesus our savior. The exuberance that a life walked with Christ brings, swells up inside of us, especially during times of celebration and we want to sing praise from the hill tops. Yet the faithful know full well that the road upon which the Christian treads is not always smooth; it can be cluttered with rocks and roots, that threaten to trip us up at every turn. Our doubts, our sufferings, our failures, they can bring us to our knees as we feel the weight of a cross heavy across our backs; sometimes all we can do is beg God for his mercy and help. It is painfully obvious to the devote, that Christianity is not the path of least resistance. Society yells lies in our face: Success = money! Individualism = freedom! Vanity and pride = prestige and rewards! Morality = oppression! So why do we bother? Why do we pick ourselves off the floor, with our cross, not leaving it behind, and try to follow Jesus?
With the resurrection of our Lord in the foremost of our minds, we read today’s gospel from Luke and contemplate this big question of why. The apostles have witnessed the seemingly impossible, Jesus the crucified, suddenly in the mists and speaking to them! It is no wonder they were startled and terrified. Jesus reassures them with his words, the words we repeat to one another in every mass: “Peace be with you.” The details in this reading attest to the factual event that is taking place before their very eyes. He tells them to feel for themselves his flesh, see his wounds. He eats with them (clearly a ghost would not need to eat). He opens their minds to understanding the scriptures so they will be able to go forth and share his word clearly, and correctly. If they were unsure of their mission before the resurrection, certainly they are clear on it now. Jesus tells them: they must proclaim the messiah who died and rose for the forgiveness of sins to all nations. They are called to witness. These chosen men go forth and profess the truth of Jesus Christ, son of God, and ultimately pay the price of death for their witness (all but one, the beloved apostle John). Would we dare ask them why did they bother?!
Our apostolic faith has carried on the mission that Jesus gave those men. We are called to witness just as they were. It is easy to see why they accepted this call, but why do we? Well, simply put we witness because it is the truth, a truth so deep and profound that we cannot possibly deny it. A truth that Christians are still dying for. With lies surrounding us at every turn, how can we not stand up for what we know is the truth? That is the simple answer, there are other ways to answer this question that are deeply personal. We all could share our own story, or witness, of why but we can also sum it up by reading what St John the apostle said in his first letter, that “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (4:16). “We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment to know the one who is true. And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). When we have had a personal encounter with the living God and experienced his love for us, we must be a witness to that love; love that is freely given and undeserved. There is no other way to live once our eyes have been opened to the truth, just as the apostles could no longer deny Jesus after he appeared to them post crucifixion. This is not to say that it is easy. It takes great courage to be a witness to the truth, even for those of us who are relatively safe from physical persecution.
There are so many ways in which we can be a good witness to our risen Lord Jesus, but the way we live is the most important witness of all. Does our home reflect our love for Christ and our Catholic faith? Do our children and neighbors see the devotion to God in our daily lives? Do they see us keeping the Lords day and attending mass with a joyful heart? Do they see us in prayer often, saying the rosary, reading scripture, volunteering our time and talent? Do they see us as loving, kind, generous people? Do they see us make the sign of the cross? Is this hard for us to do in public, say at a restaurant? Think for a moment of what a powerful witness the simple prayer of making the sign of the cross is. This action is can be silent and yet it speaks volumes. A good challenge for all of us would be to spend some time thinking about how we witness. I am grateful to look back on the past year and a half since my conversion to Christ and see how the little ways in which I witness now spring forth so naturally and from a place of blissful oblation. This is what happens when we grow closer to God! I like wearing my Ave Maria metal around my neck not only because it holds a plethora of meaning for me, but it shows people that I am Catholic. It might even invite a question and a conversation about the faith. Am I prepared to answer it? This is another aspect of our call to witness, that we must be well formed in order to be a good disciple to the truth. Just as the liturgy is our moral imperative, so is furthering our Catholic understanding.
My dear brothers and sisters, we know of the lies that threaten the human person at every turn, we see them with heavy hearts, abundant in the world. Let us not forget to seek out the beauty of God’s truth, because it is also here in our world. The truth of Christianity, and of the One, Holy, Apostolic Church is present here and now. When we look for it, we will find it everywhere. It is in music and art, it is in the mountains, valleys and desserts, it is in the rising sun, the moon, and the stars, it is in the very air we breath. It is in the mass. It is in each other.
I will close with a beautiful hymn from the mid-morning (Terce) prayer from the Divine Office that really spoke to me while I was thinking on the subject of witnessing.